On Friday’s Talk Back show, the special guest on City Talk was Missoula Police Department Lieutenant Matt Stonesifer, the local HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas) Program Task Force Commander.

Stonesifer spent the hour describing the sometimes terrifying facts about the drug trade, specifically methamphetamine and fentanyl, at work in the Missoula community right now.

“We talk a lot in our world today about information siloing, the idea that one organization only knows what they know, and one of the core missions of HIDTA is to break down those barriers and get information shared amongst the different HIDTA organizations across the country,” said Stonesifer. “Drugs obviously are a national and international issue, and they move constantly in space and time across borders, and if local organizations are only aware of what's happening in their jurisdiction, it's going to severely limit their ability to effectively enforce the law and disrupt the supply of drugs into their communities.”

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What sets the drug trade apart from other crimes is the extreme violence that accompanies every aspect of the activity.

“The correlation between drugs and violent crime is one of the things that makes it such a priority for the Missoula Police Department and our other partner organizations,” he said. “I think Lydia Arnold (Missoula Police Department Public Information Officer) can speak to this as well. Anecdotally, we see a strong correlation between drugs, particularly methamphetamine, and violent crime, not even just as a driver for funding drugs, but as a side effect of long-term abuse of drugs. You spoke earlier in the program about the changes that happen in people's bodies and their brains and their physiology due to long-term drug abuse, and we've seen that come up again and again in incidents that the police department has responded to and investigated.”

Stonesifer said what sets fentanyl apart from other drugs is the ease of manufacture and transportation for the international drug cartels.

“Drug trafficking organizations and manufacturers have figured out that fentanyl is a drug that can be made completely in a lab and that requires no organic inputs whereas heroin requires poppies to be grown,” he said. “Fentanyl just requires chemicals, and so it takes a lot of steps out of illicit manufacture and makes it a more desirable and profitable drug for trafficking organizations to produce and sell.”

Lt. Stonesifer was asked to specifically address the children of Missoula and their parents about how easy it can be to start using drugs without even realizing the impact the drugs will have on their lives.

“We have drugs in our community that can potentially be fatal to you,” he said. “We are having folks die in our community accidentally at a fairly fast pace, and that fentanyl has made using drugs not prescribed to you by a doctor significantly more dangerous. I've been doing this work for a very long time. If you put a bag of cocaine and a bag of powdered fentanyl in front of me, I would not be able to tell the difference. And nationwide we are seeing cases where people think they're taking one drug and it turns out to be another drug such as fentanyl, and it can cause some serious problems up into and including death.”

Click here to listen to the entire City Talk presentation.

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