On Monday, Alexandria police and prosecutors banded together with counterparts from the Virginia State Police and Maryland law enforcement officials to announce a massive heroin bust.
All told, 11 were arrested and indicted on drug-trafficking and racketeering charges, and hundreds of grams of narcotics, several guns, cars and cash were seized.
Congratulations are due to every agency, from the local to federal level, that contributed to the investigation of this alleged drug ring. A prosecution of this magnitude is sure to “put a significant dent,” as Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter put it, in the local drug trade for the time being.
In our region particularly, it is important that the various police departments and other agencies are able to collaborate and work together to nail down criminal activity that frequently crosses jurisdictions and state lines. As various officials said this operation could be a model for future investigative ventures, we hope to see similar partnerships bear fruit in the future.
But the cooperative nature of Operation Purple Rain, as police dubbed this investigation, also highlights the broader cooperation that must take place throughout all facets of our community to combat the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic.
As Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) noted, it is not enough simply to crack down on enforcement on the supply side of the drug trade. Everyone must do their part together to reduce illicit demand for heroin and opioids.
Obviously, parents, teachers and mentors need to keep up traditional presence in teens’ lives and educate them about the dangers of heroin and other drug abuse. But adults also must be educated about opioids that are often legally prescribed, since they can serve as gateways to addiction.
Additionally, we must all do our part to help those who are struggling with drug abuse to get treatment. For government officials, that means ensuring state and local agencies are able to connect residents with treatment providers and information.
And residents have a role to play as well. Keep an eye out for family members, friends and neighbors in case they exhibit signs of addiction, and try to direct them to treatment if necessary.
The War on Drugs was a term coined in 1971, but there still is no end in sight. The only way to successfully beat back the opioid epidemic will be with a holistic approach.
Drug dealers must be stopped through complex investigations like this one, and at the same time other government agencies, nonprofits, health care providers and even friends and relatives must work to reduce the number of people willing to buy and use heroin and prescription opioids. Lives hang in the balance.