SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (KABC) -- Southern California law enforcement agencies gathered in Santa Clarita on Monday to address the area's growing fentanyl crisis as overdose deaths skyrocket in the area.
"If they're buying anything online via any social media platform, it's going to have fentanyl," said Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. "Period, and then you're just playing 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 tried heroin for the first time and did one shot and he was dead that night and it turned out to be fentanyl," said Bob Hahs, who lost his son nine years ago.
Santa Clarita city leaders said since Jan. 1, there have been 21 fentanyl deaths in the city.
Santa Clarita zip codes have seen growth rates in overdose deaths similar to those of California and Los Angeles, increasing three to four times between 2019 and 2021, and an ever greater increase from 2017.
"Walking into their kids' bedrooms, which is supposed to be the safest place for our children, you don't think my son or daughter is going to die in the middle of the night on a random Tuesday evening," said Representative Mike Garcia. "But these parents are walking into the rooms and seeing their kids just dead from this stuff."
Earlier this summer, Villanueva announced a new task force within LASD that will investigate narcotics-related deaths.
"We're not treating these as narcotics-related investigations anymore, we're treating them as death investigations," said LASD Capt. Brandon Dean.