U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer wants the federal government to crack down on illegal shipments of fentanyl into the United States by bolstering points of entry here in New York.
Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Sunday that the state should receive at least $5 million from the federal budget to provide security teams at Kennedy Airport and at local post offices with state-of-the-art detectors that can identify the substance in packages. The senator said that fentanyl suppliers from China and other locations are sending their shipments disguised as regular mail, and despite security measures such as dogs and large scanners, the contraband is slipping through.
"JFK is at the center of stopping fentanyl if we do this right," he said.
There were 1,441 unintentional drug overdose deaths in New York City in 2017, which was a 53 percent jump from 2015, according to the city’s health department. Fentanyl was involved in 44 percent of all fatal overdoses in 2016, according to Schumer’s office.
Schumer’s funding proposal would provide handheld fentanyl detectors for customs and USPS agents that can be used to sweep shipments. President Donald Trump’s proposed budget sets aside $16 million nationally, but Schumer argued that New York needs the bulk of that money because of JFK’s reach across the country.
"If you spend at least $5 million, you can stop a lot of fentanyl from getting into the country," he said.
Representatives from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the USPS did not return messages for comment.
The senator added that he has bipartisan support for sanctions against China for its role in the opioid crisis. The sanctions would block Chinese drug manufacturers who knowingly provide synthetic opioids to traffickers, and would establish a "Commission on Synthetic Opioid Trafficking."