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May 16, 2024

Fentanyl drug packaging operation busted in Kensington

Investigators seized 1,100 bags of the synthetic opioid and arrested the alleged leader of the scheme following a 5-month investigation, District Attorney Larry Krasner says.

Investigations Drug Bust
Kensington drug bust Provided Image/Philadelphia District Attorney's Office

Investigators seized 1,100 bags of fentanyl and two firearms during a drug bust in Kensington, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner says.

A mid-level drug bust in Kensington is being framed by city officials as part of a larger crackdown on the largest open-air drug market on the East Coast, city officials said Thursday. 

Jada Williams, 21, the alleged head of a fentanyl distribution operation in Kensington was arrested Tuesday at 3125 Kensington Ave. after investigators seized 1,100 bags of fentanyl and two guns on the property. The fentanyl bags sell on the street for $5 to $10 each.

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Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid about 50 times more potent than heroin, is prevalent in much of the nation's illicit drug supply. Nearly 70% of all fatal drug overdose deaths in 2022 were linked primarily to fentanyl, according to a recent U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency report. Philadelphia does not expect to have its final count of overdose deaths completed until September, but they are expected to exceed 1,300, according to the city's health department.

"We are speaking of fatal overdoses killing three to four people every day in Philadelphia," District Attorney Larry Krasner said at a press conference Thursday. "And overwhelmingly, the cause of those fatal overdoses is fentanyl that is either pure or it is mixed in – which is more common – with other substances."

Krasner characterized this as a "mid-level case," involving about $5,500 to $11,000 worth of drugs at street value. The five-month investigation conducted by the Pennsylvania State Police Southeast Strike Force involved three undercover buys from Williams, investigators said.

"This person is clearly not just feeding their own habits," Krasner said. "They're feeding other drug dealers. So I … wouldn't say you're managing a whole block, but you're clearly participating with other dealers to do distribution in the neighborhood."

Krasner said there was a need for more mid-level busts to fill a "gap" in cracking down on the drug supply network.

"There's always been this gap in the middle, the gap being the investigation that does not take five years, but also doesn't take five minutes," Krasner said. "It might take three months, two months, five months, but it is going to take down the operation that is employing those kids on a corner. It's going to take down the operation that is fed by Pablo Escobar. This is an example of that, and it is something that in my mind is very important that, with the help of more wiretaps, more collaboration, could make a significant difference."

The drug bust came about one week after Philadelphia police cleared out a homeless encampment on a two-block stretch of Kensington Avenue – part of Mayor Cherelle Parker's larger strategy to revitalize Kensington. Her plan also calls for increased law enforcement in the neighborhood.