Denver Police is launching a dedicated fentanyl investigative unit

DPD cites an “ever-increasing epidemic of fentanyl distribution” as the reason for the team’s creation.
2 min. read
A parked Denver Police cruiser. Sept. 30, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

The Denver Police Department is launching the "Fentanyl Investigations Team," a specialized unit that will focus on reducing the use of the illicit synthetic opioid that's being mixed with heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs.

The unit will consist of one sergeant and five detectives. DPD said in a statement that the new team will "focus on disrupting distribution networks, reducing the supply of fentanyl in our community, and assisting with suspected fentanyl overdose death investigations where there is information that could lead to identifying a dealer or person who provided the narcotics, and possible charges."

The creation of the FIT will also change how DPD investigates marijuana-related complaints, such as illegal grows.

The department's centralized marijuana investigative unit has seen a significant drop in cases since 2020 and will be reassigned to the fentanyl team.

"As a law enforcement agency, we must adapt as trends change," Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas said in a statement. "By refocusing this team of investigators, we are increasing our capacity to address the fentanyl epidemic, hold dealers accountable and remove more fentanyl from our streets with the ultimate goal of saving lives."

Fentanyl's presence in Colorado has spiked in recent years, with fentanyl deaths being 10 times what they were in 2016. That's happening in part to other street drugs being laced with fentanyl, which is 100 times stronger than morphine.

Since 2021, DPD has recovered more than 86,000 grams in fentanyl. In 2020, officers recovered just 5,300 grams.

Denver's health department distributes free Naloxone to resident  -- the opioid overdose reversal medication that can sometimes save lives -- and fentanyl testing strips due to its large presence in the state. However, because of the program's high demand, deliveries can take weeks.

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