Off The Top tonight, Eyewitness News reporter Rachel Polansky joins us live in the studio with some stories that lead up to today's raid.
Bath salts have become an epidemic in our region. We've spoken with users, officials, and community members these last few months and many ask the same question - when will it end? After today's raid, some people whose lives have been affected by these drugs think we're making progress.
"I almost lost my life from it," says Brandon Barletta, former synthetic drug user.
"I'm a drug addict, been a drug addict my whole life. And I was mixing synthetic marijuana with the glass cleaner," says Kevin Parker, former synthetic drug user.
"You'll do anything to get the money. If you don't have it, you'll do anything to get the money to buy it," says Barletta.
And these two former users aren't the only ones affected. Area officials say the battle with the drug commonly known as bath salts has become an epidemic in our area.
"Really in the last six to seven months, more so then we've seen in any other kind of problem rise to the level as fast as this has. And particularly in Central New York and Oneida County," says Anthony Picente, Oneida County Executive.
"It's a problem and it's a new problem. Government and public health and law enforcement is playing catch up at this point trying to stem the growing problem that we see with these bath salts," says Ken Fanelli, Oneida County Health Department.
But today, in Operation Log Jam, authorities raided head shops in 100 U.S. cities including more than a dozen in our area. And many community members are happy to hear the news.
"Thank god it's about time, I'm happy and I feel a lot safer now. Hopefully it's gone for good and we don't have to worry about it anymore," says Colleen Moises, Utica resident.
"It's an epidemic that needs to be confronted head on"
"You hear about it everyday and it gets worse and worse. My wife works at St. Lukes and she tells me there's people all around with the bath salt problem. It needs to be cleaned up so it's great that they're doing this," says Michael Atkinson, Utica resident.
Eyewitness News was at Tebb's Head Shop in Utica this morning during the raid. Tebb's is only 1 of 10 shops that the DEA confirms was raided today.
Utica Police Raid Tebb's Head Shop in Utica.
"I'm very pleased to hear about the action being taken against this local retailer and i hope its the first of many to come. These people have to take responsibility and realize that this is harmful to individuals and entire community," says Fanelli.
And the raids come the same day Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente asks the Board of Legislators to ban synthetic drugs used in chemical compounds used to make "bath salts."
"The law tries to get at the heart of it so that there's uniformity locally that our law enforcement professional can deal with so we don't have all different types of bans or laws that are hard to enforce," says Picente.
Today's bust is the first coordinated raid targeting head shops since these synthetic drugs started making news almost daily. The DEA and other federal law-enforcement partners are holding a media conference tomorrow to present the results of Operation Log Jam, and we will keep you updated as more information becomes available.