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In midst of opioid epidemic, Schumer seeks tougher anti-trafficking law

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Michael Mroziak, WBFO
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As Western New York and the entire nation address a rising problem with opioid and opiate abuse, one of New York State's representatives in the U.S. Senate says the laws which crack down on international traffickers are not tough enough.

Senator Charles Schumer's bill, known as the Transnational Drug Trafficking Act, would give federal law enforcers more power to go after those who import drugs or drug precursor chemicals into the U.S. from abroad.

Under current legislation, investigators must prove a drug kingpin's knowledge of trafficking before they can pursue charges. Schumer's bill would give prosecutors more opportunity to charge suspects when they have reasonable belief that imported chemicals will be used for the manufacture of drugs intended for illegal distribution.

"To rely on the local countries, which are often corrupt, is hopeless," Schumer said while appearing Monday at the Kids Escaping Drugs campus in West Seneca. "What we need to do is be able to use our own laws."

Schumer urged members of the House of Representatives to vote on the bill as soon as possible. While he believes there's bipartisan support, he expressed his concern for the dysfunction - including the search for a new House Speaker - which has held up other business.

Erie County Health Department officials say the latest number of fatalities this year linked to heroin or opioid overdoses is 147. Those numbers, officials tell WBFO, are updated about every two weeks and they expect an increase in the total when the new numbers arrive.

The health department projects as many as 275 fatal overdoses within Erie County by the end of this year. By comparison, 331 fatal opiate overdoses were recorded between 2012 and 2014.

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Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO
As displayed on a chart at Monday's news conference in West Seneca, Erie County health officials are expecting a dramatic spike in fatal heroin and opioid overdoses by year's end.

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