Law enforcement targeting drugs being sold on social media

Law enforcement targeting drugs being sold on social media

CLEVELAND — There is a new trend that the Drug Enforcement Administration is watching closely. Illegal drugs are being bought and sold on social media.

“It’s huge,” said Quinn Auten, DEA Resident Agent in Charge Toledo Office.

And it’s a huge problem for law enforcement.

“Detecting how the drug trafficking organizations communicate with each other, trying to get between the customer and dealer is getting tougher,” said Auten.

Purchasing illegal drugs on social media is a trend that has been steadily increasing since the pandemic.

“People in everyday life had to get more creative in how to stay in touch with people. Social media and apps really played a part in that to a good extent, but at the same time, that was exploited to move drugs as well,” explained Auten.

Just last month, a DEA national initiative targeted drugs on social media.
According to the DEA, in that investigation, more than 1100 drug cases were linked to social media and encrypted communications platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, Wire and Wickr.

At a park in Lakewood on Tuesday it was all about child’s play. But the parents we talked with were aware of the web of danger on social media.
“It scares me a little, but it doesn’t surprise me,” said. Calie Hollinshead, the mother of two.

Emily Hale is the mother of three young girls. Her children do not have social media or cell phones.

“We’ve heard it said that when you give your kid a phone, their childhood is over,” said Hale.

Gretchen Anderson is the mother of four boys, and she is concerned about social media. Her children don’t have phones or social media. “My oldest talks about TikTok because of a classmate. We make it very clear that you don’t need a phone, and you’re not getting any of that,” she explained.

As drug dealers get more creative with pushing dope. “They’re looking for encryption, they’re looking for ways not to be detected and these apps are definitely the way,” said Auten.

That is why law enforcement is forced to change how they do business. “We have cyber groups. We have very specific training for some very smart people who sit down and try to break through those barriers that social media puts up,” said Auten.

The DEA said it provided hundreds of drug street names to a technology company which resulted in 20,000 social media accounts being shut down.

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