Detectives say massive Manatee drug operation leads to drop in heroin overdoses

Massive Manatee County drug operation leads to drop in heroin overdoses

Manatee County Sheriff's Office photo

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – In 2015 Manatee County ranked highest in Florida for heroin deaths and overdoses. But the numbers are dropping, for which the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office credits an 18-month long investigation.

Since 2014 Manatee County detectives have worked closely with local, state and federal officials. Detectives confiscated more than a $250,000 worth of heroin, three kilos of cocaine, 28 weapons and more than $320,000 in cash. Fifteen people were busted for drug trafficking, and more arrests are on the way.

<< MUG SHOTS: See the people arrested in this operation >>

“We’re coming after you (drug dealers). And we’re going to put you out of business,” Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said.

The hard work is paying off. Officials are seeing a sharp drop in heroin calls. While 2015 had 77 heroin-related deaths in the country, there have been none this year.

Manatee County Sheriff's Office photo
Manatee County Sheriff’s Office photo

The 15 suspects each face up to 30 years in prison, and officials say they could face even more charges.

“These law enforcement officers are not going to underestimate these drug dealers. So they’re the ones who need to start watching out now,” Bondi said.

The operation is still active. Detectives really want to know where the drugs are coming from. They believe most of the drugs are being smuggled in from China and Mexico.

For people like Gerrie Stanhope, this operation is a godsend. She’s seen the heroin crisis firsthand. “It’s terrible. It’s terrible,” Stanhope said.

Her son, Brian, was addicted to the narcotic. In December 2014 he came back to live with her and seek treatment. But he didn’t make it.

Manatee County Sheriff's Office photo
Manatee County Sheriff’s Office photo

“We did not realize he was using again and we found him on Sunday December 7 deceased in our bathroom,” Stanhope recalled.

Stanhope is thrilled with the news but knows there’s more work to do. “We’ve just lost so many people in Manatee County,” she said.

So now she’s made it her mission to counsel others who have lost loved ones to drugs. “If I can help other people that helps me to heal also,” Stanhope said.

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