SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (KABC) — Southern California law enforcement rallied in Santa Clarita Monday to address the region’s growing fentanyl crisis as overdose deaths in the region soar.

“If you buy something online through a social media platform, it’s going to have fentanyl in it,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. “Period, and then you just play Russian roulette.”

Fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 45, and some Santa Clarita residents know that statistic all too well.

“I had a nephew who was trying heroin for the first time and shot and he was dead that night and it turned out to be fentanyl,” said Bob Hahs, who lost his son nine years ago.

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Santa Clarita city leaders said there have been 21 deaths from fentanyl in the city since Jan. 1.

The Santa Clarita ZIP Codes saw similar growth rates in overdose deaths as California and Los Angeles, increasing three- to four-fold between 2019 and 2021 and increasing even faster starting in 2017.

“When you go into their children’s rooms, which are supposed to be the safest place for our children, don’t think that my son or daughter is going to die in the middle of the night on a random Tuesday night,” representative Mike Garcia said. “But these parents go into the rooms and they just see their kids dead from this stuff.”

Earlier this summer, Villanueva announced a new task force within LASD that will investigate narcotics-related deaths.

“We’re no longer treating these as narcotics-related investigations, we’re treating them as death-related investigations,” said LASD Capt. Brandon Dean.

Copyright © 2022 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved. Drug use in Santa Clarita: LA Sheriff Alex Villanueva calls fentanyl a game of Russian roulette while authorities crack down on drugs

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