The Drug Enforcement Administration has launched Operation Overdrive, a new initiative aimed at combating rising rates of drug-related violent crime and overdose deaths in New Jersey and across the country.

DEA New Jersey Division Special Agent in Charge Susan Gibson said “we’re going to be using data-driven intelligence-led approaches to identify and dismantle the drug networks operating in areas with the highest rates of violence and overdoses.”

Two New Jersey cities are on the list

She said in phase 1 of the Operation, the focus will be one 34 locations nationwide and “two of them happen to be here in the state of New Jersey, I’m going to be working with the Camden Chief of Police and the director of public safety in the respective Newark and Camden Areas.”

She said it’s become clear “the vast majority of identified criminal drug networks are engaged in gun violence, a majority of them that have been identified sell fentanyl amphetamines.”

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Gibson noted “64% of all the overdoses are due to fentanyl, so we’re going after those that distribute fentanyl that are causing the overdoses, drug dealing and violence go hand in hand.”

She said the current overdose epidemic in this country is claiming 275 lives a day, and last year there were nearly 3,000 overdose deaths in New Jersey alone.

NJ flooded with guns

About 77% of all murders committed involve a firearm.

(Office of the Attorney General)
(Office of the Attorney General)
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In 2021, DEA and its law enforcement partners seized more than 8,700 firearms connected to investigations of drug trafficking organizations.

She said that’s a lot of weapons but “97% of the identified drug networks that we know of sell deadly synthetic drugs and are also engaged in violent gun crimes.”

A warning for violent drug gangs

She said criminal drug organizations should understand “federal, state and local, we’re all coming together to tackle this problem, so if they think it’s just the DEA coming after them, they’re wrong.”

“All law enforcement components are coming together to fight this battle, it’s every law enforcement component that’s out there, we are going to work together to get this job done,” said Gibson.

She said moving forward Operation Overdrive will expand beyond the cities and move into suburban and even rural parts of the Garden State.

“We are going to go wherever the data analytics take us,” she said.

DEA Administrator Anne Milgram, a former state attorney general, said “DEA will bring all it has to bear to make our communities safer and healthier, and to reverse the devastating trends of drug-related violence and overdoses plaguing our nation. The gravity of these threats requires a data-driven approach to pinpoint the most dangerous networks threatening our communities, and leveraging our strongest levers across federal, state, and local partners to bring them down.”

Besides Newark and Camden, other Operation Overdrive Phase I locations include:

• Atlanta, Georgia
• Baltimore, Maryland
• Baton Rouge, Louisiana
• Bronx, New York
• Buffalo, New York
• Chattanooga, Tennessee
• Chicago, Illinois
• Cincinnati, Ohio
• Cleveland, Ohio
• Columbia, South Carolina
• Dayton, Ohio
• Detroit, Michigan
• Flint, Michigan
• Indianapolis, Indiana
• Jackson, Mississippi
• Kansas City, Missouri
• Little Rock, Arkansas
• Memphis, Tennessee
• Miami, Florida
• Milwaukee, Wisconsin
• New Orleans, Louisiana
• Oakland, California
• Peoria, Illinois
• Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
• Pine Bluff, Arkansas
• San Juan, Puerto Rico
• Richmond, Virginia
• San Bernardino, California
• St. Louis, Missouri
• Tulsa, Oklahoma
• Washington, D.C.
• Wilmington, Delaware

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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