The city’s drug trade got an influx of new product amid last month’s unrest. Over the past week, officials have started to publicly acknowledge that scores of pain killers were among the items looted from the 17 pharmacies that were looted on April 27.
At the scene of a drug raid in West Baltimore last week, Maryland DEA chief Gary Tuggle told WBAL-TV that gangs were targeting the pharmacies, including the CVS at Penn and North that the nation watched burn, so they could steal Percocet, oxycodone, OxyContin and Vicodin. Tuggle didn’t put a number on the pills stolen, but said it was “probably enough to keep the city high for a year.”
Appearing on WYPR’s Midday with Dan Rodricks on Friday, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts stopped short of connecting gangs directly with the drug store looting, and any lofty rhetoric. But he acknowledged that the drug stores weren’t targeted by “happenstance.”
Batts also appeared to draw a line between the looted pills and the uptick in violence across the city in May, as he went on to list a number of shootings in East and West Baltimore over the past week that police believe are gang-related. Batts also said police are working to arrest the people responsible for the looting.
As the U.S. Attorney’s office in Maryland acknowledged in an unrelated case on Thursday, pills are directly connected to the heroin trade, which is one of the city’s most-trafficked drugs.
“When prescriptions are obtained through rogue pain management clinics and then sold on the streets, it creates and feeds a new generation of users and addicts,” DEA Special Agent in Charge Karl C. Colder said in a statement, regarding indictments in connection with a “pill mill” operation. “These addicts will continue to abuse the illegal prescriptions, or switch to a cheaper and more potent drug; heroin.”
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