400+ arrested, hundreds of pounds in drugs recovered in months-long Brevard drug-trafficking operation

Local, federal, and state law enforcement agencies are pooling resources across Brevard County to find drug dealers and save lives.

For about six months, several agencies have been working together to target suspected drug dealers in the county which has one of the highest overdose rates in Central Florida, according to Project Opioid.

These law enforcement leaders say they’ve never seen a more dangerous drug than fentanyl and are trying a new approach to get drugs off the street.

The coalition contained numerous agencies including The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, Melbourne, Palm Bay, West Melbourne, Cocoa Beach, Satellite Beach, Indialantic, Melbourne Beach, Titusville, Rockledge, Indian Harbour Beach and Cocoa police departments, and the Office of the State Attorney, 18th Judicial Circuit, along with the Florida Highway Patrol, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security Investigations and Drug Enforcement Administration.

"You better find another place to deal fentanyl," said Phil Archer. He’s the state attorney for Brevard and Seminole counties. His office prosecutes these cases in the county.

This newly aligned group isn’t backing down, going all in to find suspected drug dealers preying on people’s addictions.

"This is not always the person that’s constantly throughout their life been addicted to drugs. This is the kid next door," said Brevard Co. Sheriff Wayne Ivey.

The sheriff says over the last two years, over 172 people died from fentanyl overdoses in Brevard County.

They’re taking a new approach by bringing agencies together to go after drugs. It’s called "Operation Unified Front."

Since September, they’ve arrested 477 people and recovered numerous drugs including: 55 pounds of cocaine, 2,400 pills, 289 pounds of marijuana, and 17 pounds of fentanyl which the sheriff says if put into a lethal dose would kill four million people.

"We’re being very aggressive with these fentanyl dealers, and if they lead to overdose deaths, we’re charging them with first degree murder," Archer said about how his office is prosecuting these crimes. "We’re probably leading the nation in these charges right now. It’s aggressive. There’s some criticism, but frankly I don’t care."

The sheriff claims weak bonds are complicating the issue.

"Whether they’re fentanyl dealers or they’re violent individuals, the bonds are letting them right back out on the street, and our team is facing them again," Ivey exclaimed.

He sa, they’re working with legislators to increase bonds and consequences for suspected drug dealers. For now, deputies and officers will keep facing drug dealers and making arrests no matter the risk.

"Now, with the fentanyl epidemic, every time an undercover goes to make a hand-to-hand purchase, they’re not allowed to go in there with rubber gloves on and PPE equipment, so they’re risking their lives every time they make one of these deals," concluded Jason Kriegsman who’s the FDLE resident agent in charge in Brevard County and spearheaded the operation.

Ivey says they’ve had to use Narcan on their own deputies numerous times to save their lives when they come into contact with fentanyl. This unified approach will continue in Brevard, and they’re hoping the entire country can follow suit to save lives.