BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Forty people were arrested Monday on drug distribution charges as part of an operation by federal officials to take heroin dealers off the streets.
Those arrested were among 50 people in total who have been indicted on charges related to heroin trafficking in the past six months, U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance and federal Drug Enforcement Special Agent in Charge Clay Morris said in a statement.
Among those indicted who remained at large late Monday were two men charged in connection with the heroin overdose deaths of two young Tuscaloosa men earlier this year.
The victims were 20 and 28 years old and lived in the same apartment complex, officials said. They also said the younger one was a student at the University of Alabama.
The arrests show that heroin is becoming a major problem in northern Alabama, Vance said, noting that 83 people in Jefferson, Tuscaloosa and Shelby counties died of heroin overdoses in 2012. The same three counties saw 15 heroin-related deaths in 2008.
Vance said drug dealers have moved from selling cocaine to heroin, and "this shift has led to skyrocketing overdose death rates among young people."
The Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Marshals and several local police departments helped with the investigation.