A countywide drug bust operation in Chester County culminated in the arrests of 46 people over the last two months, District Attorney Thomas Hogan said Tuesday.
Dubbed "Operation Wildfire," the large-scale investigation "took place in every region of Chester County," the DA's office said in a statement.
Undercover cops and cooperatives bought heroin, Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, morphine, MDMA, diazepam, and Xanax, as well as crack cocaine and crystal methamphetamine. Hogan said 46 alleged drug dealers have been arrested or will be.
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More than 1,600 people died from overdoses in 2016 in the five-county region of southeastern Pennsylvania: 900 in Philadelphia, 253 in Montgomery County, 227 in Delaware County, 185 in Bucks County and 97 in Chester County, according to the DA's office. The death toll from opioids in all of Pennsylvania continued a steep climb last year despite growing awareness of drug addiction.
More than 4,600 people died across the state, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, a 37-percent increase from 2015.
"It was dubbed Operation Wildfire because everyone knows heroin and opioids are ripping through Pennsylvania and the United States like wildfire," Hogan said in an interview. "We unleashed all these detectives and drug cops to do nothing but go after these drugs."
Chester County is fortunate enough to be able to fund such a sweeping and collaborative investigation on its own, he said, but other counties aren't able to and need help.
"Let's face it, most counties in Pennsylvania do not," Hogan said. "You go to the poorer counties, they need help. They need help from the federal prosecutor's offices."
Some of the alleged dealers have already had hearings while others have yet to be arrested, but Hogan said they are being taken into custody as soon as possible.
The total amount of drugs confiscated has yet to be tallied. They have been sent to a laboratory to be tested, Hogan said.