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Heroin bust sheds light on growing drug problem, police say

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Posted at 10:07 PM, May 13, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-14 00:07:41-04

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah -- More than 50 people have been arrested in a massive heroin bust across Salt Lake and Utah counties.

Police say it highlights a problem that's only getting worse in northern Utah.

Police busted 11 suspected drug traffickers who all have ties to Mexico, officials say. Unified Police say with the legalization of marijuana in some states, Mexican drug cartels are focusing more of their efforts on heroin to make a profit.

Police say the customers are lining up to get a cheap, addictive product.

"This is heroin in pure form," said Unified Lt. Bill Robertson as he displayed the seized drugs. "We've got heroin ballooned up and this is how it's sold on the street a lot."

UPD displayed the results of a 3-month joint investigation with Utah County's Major Crimes Task Force. Last week, police seized guns, $82,000 in cash and six pounds of heroin from 15 locations in Salt Lake and Utah counties.

Heroin took the life of 22 year-old Adam Shultz in November 2012.

His story is strikingly similar to what police described Tuesday.

"(He) went to a doctor and got on some Oxycontin to be able to work and it became a problem," said Adam's mother, Darlene Shultz.

"They start to doctor shop and they can't find the number of pills they need to keep that high they start turning to the illegal substance, which is heroin," said Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy.

"He was 150 days clean -- we just celebrated his 150th day and he wrecked his car coming home from work and about three days later relapsed," Darlene Shultz said.

She found her son dead from an overdose in his bedroom.

After police arrested 11 suspected drug traffickers, police interviewed some of the 40 customers also busted. Police say many of those buyers describe a similar experience to what Adam Shultz went through.

"It's very addictive," Lt. Robertson said. "Secondly, a lot of them have kicked it but they always start coming back to it."

Last summer, Unified Police made a historic heroin bust, seizing 90 pounds.

Cops say it's become Utah's drug of choice. Tracy said Utah County seized 130 pounds of heroin last year.

Utah County already seized the same amount in the first quarter of 2014, the sheriff said. Cops say it's cheap and easy to get as police saw in this latest takedown.

"Not unlike a pizza delivery service where they would send out essentially minions where the purchaser calls in and it's delivered right to them, that's happening in every neighborhood you can fathom," said Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder.

Winder said a tip from a concerned family member sparked the larger investigation. He said it's proof that tips work and Darlene Shultz agrees.

"It was very smart for them to do that. it may have saved their life, their loved one’s life," Darlene Shultz said.

Police repeatedly said Tuesday, heroin is a "hidden" issue.

Darlene Shultz agrees. She said families need to openly discuss the issue more.

Darlene Shultz added that it's not enough for the addict to get treatment. Families need to become educated and need support as well.

Mary Jo McMillan, the executive director of Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness, also stressed the importance of early intervention education and the need for more accessibility for treatment in Utah. She says there are issues with insurance and a need for more funding.

"Heroin is easier to get than treatment," McMillen said.