Photos of the raids
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) – Police agencies throughout Central New York and the United States are executing raids on "head shops" following the recent passage of a Federal law banning ingredients in some synthetic drugs.
In Central New York, the raids were conducted by multiple law-enforcement agencies including the Drug Enforcement Administration, State Police, Sheriff's Departments, and local police.
Raids also took place in other areas of New York State, including Watertown
, and Utica
The US Attorney's Office said the agents were executing Federal search warrants.
State Police told NewsChannel 9 the local raids were part of a nationwide operation. Media outlets throughout the United States are reporting similar raids, including locations in New Hampshire
, and Florida
Multiple NewsChannel 9 reporters and photographers were at stores throughout Central New York. They reported seeing people being escorted from stores in handcuffs.
Police in Central New York are primarily targeting the Tebbs Smokehouse chain of so-called head shops, which has stores in several cities and towns, but also stores in the 420 Emporium chain in Central and Western New York.
The search warrant was sought after DEA officials seized two 22-pound boxes being sent to Central New York. Agents found small packages of synthetic drugs valued at $23,000.
In an application for a search warrant, a DEA officer with a background among Central New York police agencies indicated that undercover officers had entered and made purchases at 420 Emporium locations in Syracuse and Fulton before legislation banning certain chemicals in synthetic drugs had passed. The search warrant application indicates that police wanted to seize surveillance cameras from the stores as evidence, as well as cell phones.
On Wednesday, NewsChannel 9 recorded police taking items including packets from the stores.
The application indicated that 420 Emporium owner Charles Darwin Fitzgerald was "involved in an ongoing pattern of narcotics trafficking" through the Fulton and Syracuse head shops, as well as locations in Western New York.
Synthetic drugs, which include the subcategory popularly called "bath salts," have been linked to a number of bizarre and often violent incidents in Central New York – particularly Onondaga and Oneida counties.
Last week, Syracuse Police arrested a man
they say was high on bath salts when he held a knife to a child's neck.
The chemicals were also connected to a woman’s naked rampage through the Madison County village of Munnsville
. The woman died as a result of a heart attack after being tasered by a State Trooper who was trying to bring her under control.
Police have also connected the substance to several violent incidents in Utica
Emergency personnel have seen a dramatic increase in the number of incidents involving synthetic drugs, while Syracuse’s Poison Control Center has also watched a climb
in cases associated with the substances.