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Special Narcotics Prosecutor Addresses Heroin Epidemic At City Council Hearing

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Smack is back in a big way.

That's the warning from the city's special narcotics prosecutor, Bridget Brennan, who told a City Council hearing Tuesday that the amount of heroin sold by New York City-based drug traffickers is skyrocketing.

Special Narcotics Prosecutor To Address Heroin Epidemic At City Council Hearing

"So far we've seized 288 pounds (in 2014), and that's in four and a half months -- compared to last year, when during the entire year we seized about 177 pounds," Brennan said. " ... Obviously, we're going to surpass last year."

Special Narcotics Prosecutor To Address Heroin Epidemic At City Council Hearing

This year's heroin seizures have already exceeded those in every year dating back to 1991, WCBS 880's Irene Cornell reported.

There's apparently a growing appetite for heroin in the United States, and drug traffickers are meeting the demand by increasing supply with more sophisticated operations based in New York City, which has turned into a major distribution hub for the East Coast, The New York Times reported.

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"There are organizations set up in New York, very efficient, pumping out a large volume of heroin," Brennan said. "It's very streamlined."

Roughly 35 percent of heroin seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration nationwide since October was confiscated in New York state, according to the Times.

Mexican cartels apparently smuggle the drug up north in tractor-trailers. At rest stops near New York City, the heroin is off-loaded to cars and taken to mills in the Bronx and upper Manhattan, where it is processed and packaged, the Times reported.

The heroin is then distributed and sold at prices ranging from $6 to $10 per glassine envelope, the Times reported.

On Monday, officials announced 53 pounds of heroin were recently seized from two alleged Bronx-based dealers who were followed up to Hartford.

Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan said the potency of heroin has led to an overdose epidemic.

"We're having an overdose death about one out of every five days on Staten Island," Donovan said.

No one knows more about the horrors of heroin than Barry and Candace Crupi, of Staten Island. Their 21-year-old son, Johnathan, died from a heroin overdose in March.

"People think they're junkies, but they're great kids with beautiful hearts that got caught up in something they couldn't handle," Candace Crupi told CBS 2's John Slattery.

The middle class has been increasingly opting for heroin because it's potent and cheaper than prescription drugs.

"Those people who already had addictions to opiates have now turned to heroin," Donovan said. "It's cheaper, and it's more readily available.

The increase in heroin use became very public with the February death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The city's law enforcement officials say the drug must be stopped at its source, and treatment should be offered to addicts.

"Arrests are not going to solve that person's problem," NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said.

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