NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - You may have heard the saying, "There's no place like New Orleans." It's a city unique for just about everything, including the drug trade.
"The traditional organized crime family that's here and the narcotics organizations here is entrenched in the community," said DEA Special Agent in-Charge Stephen Azzam.
According to the agency, there are four main cartels that now provide the bulk of heroin on the streets of New Orleans. Those cartels, though, don't control the drug trade here. Instead, it's described as the mom and pop drug organizations that have the final say over drug operations in the city.
"It's just a very tight-knit community, and I think that they seem to stay together with regards to the drug trafficking," Azzam said.
In fact, some of the highest-level drug dealers consider New Orleans a small market compared to their dealings in the Northeast. Azzam said the cartels simply won't take the risk to come to New Orleans.
"You know, it's a very violent area so a lot of folks don't want to come in because of the violence. They fear for their safety, and they don't want to come in and traffick the drugs here," he said.
He says the local organizations are run like a business, and the dealers are simply looking to make money.
The DEA said it's the reason they're now cutting heroin with fentanyl, a deadly Scheduled II narcotic that can almost instantly kill a user.
"So your general users who's used to one drug doesn't really know what he's getting, and what he gets out of it is a whole lot worse," DEA Agent Andy Large said.
"There's no guarantee what's in that heroin. It's like playing Russian roulette. You don't know what you're going to get," Azzam said.
Because of the dangers of heroin, the DEA is taking a multi-layered approach to enforcement. There's an outreach to educate people about the dangers of the drug. In addition, Azzam saids he's re-focusing agents in the field.
"We're not looking to put users in jail. That's not what we're about. We're about command and control, finding people who pollute our neighborhoods and create so many negative effects in our communities," Azzam said.