COLLIN COUNTY, Texas — Sheriff Jim Skinner of the Collin County Sheriff's Office helped start the NTXSCIU, North Texas Sheriff's Criminal Interdiction Unit, in 2018. Its goal is to combat the flow of illicit narcotics and human trafficking into North Texas.
The latest challenge has been fighting the on-going transport of fentanyl-laced drugs that had killed an increasing number of Americans.
"There's a saying, 'One party, one pill, one time.' That's all it takes," said Skinner.
Collin, Grayson, Hunt, Parker, Rockwall, Smith, Tarrant and Wise County sheriff's offices have worked collaboratively to seize tons of narcotics on the open highways. Skinner tells WFAA the interdiction unit has seized more than 167,000 fentanyl-laced pills since 2018. But, he warns in that time fentanyl-related deaths have shot up 886% in the county.
"I don't want to see another parent deal with this," said Mike Land who lost his son Preston in January of 2021.
Mike Land is on a years-long drug awareness campaign called 25Preston7 visiting 25 national parks for his son Preston. Land said the twenty-five parks is for the 25 years Preston lived before dying of acute fentanyl poisoning. The man-made opiod is 50 times more potent than heroin.
The interdiction unit is comprised of 18 deputies over eight counties. Over the last week and a half the interdiction unit has seized 48,000 fentanyl pills on two stops. In one case the pills were found hidden inside a battery. One of the traffic stops was right off Republic Drive and U.S. 75 in Plano.
"Sometimes we'll encounter cartel soldiers, hardcore. Sometimes we'll encounter someone paid to drive from point A to point B," said Skinner. "It's been known for a long time here that U.S. 75 is one of the long-established trafficking routes. So is all the interstates," he said.
The sheriff says DFW has become a hub for the drug. It is often brought here over the border and then repackaged for national distribution.
"We know that for every load of fentanyl that we stop on the highway and we seize, we know we're saving lives," the Sheriff said.
Mike Land is in Colorado and he has done 7 national parks so far. At each one, he does a 7 mile bike ride and hikes to the highest peak to do a memorial for his son. Land tells WFAA a documentary crew is following his journey.
"I think he'd be proud. I know one day I'll be with him. I'm going to try to do this without getting teary-eyed," he said.
Skinner says the department has a long history of working with federal and state partners. He's also asking that Mexican authorities help with combating the flow of illicit narcotics and human trafficking into the area.