The Useless Hunt For Philip Seymour Hoffman's Killer

The New York Post reports that law enforcement is going to "find the source" of the heroin that allegedly killed Philip Seymour Hoffman. Let's ignore the fact "celebrity overdoses" appear to motivate NYPD, and instead look at how NYPD will try to avenge Hoffman's death...

Heroin use and deaths related to heroin have been on the rise in the greater-New York area over the past few years. The Daily Beast reports that local prosecutors have dubbed the Long Island Expressway the "heroin highway." Heroin is cheap, but "bad" batches of street heroin mixed with fentanyl have been popping up and leading to deaths. Hoffman was allegedly found with packets branded "Ace of Spades."

It's not exactly easy for law enforcement to stop the problem. Just last week, the Drug Enforcement Administration made a major bust in the Bronx. The DEA said the bust netted $8 million dollars worth of product.

But how does that really help? In the Bronx case, police seized 33 pounds of heroin and arrested two people — likely low-level drug runners. They caught one of the guys climbing out of a window... which doesn't suggest that they put their hands on Nino Brown.

In the Hoffman case, police will start with a "nitro dump." When police make an arrest, they log the "brand name" of the drug in their system; the nitro dump involves doing a search of those records in an attempt to find the most likely places that particular brand is sold.

Maybe these tactics will lead NYPD to a source they can claim supplied Hoffman with drugs, but they're unlikely to get at anybody who is a "source" of any consequence. We're talking about multimillion dollar operations whose true bosses never put their hands on any product. Check out how much FBI work it took to get "Dread Pirate Roberts," Ross William Ulbricht, who was allegedly part of Silk Road's internet-based drug ring. You don't catch these guys by staking out their apartment buildings.

That's all a nitro dump is likely to lead to: an apartment police can watch until somebody slips up. Maybe the apartment is a stash house that will reveal many pounds of heroin. But stopping heroin trafficking in New York is not something that NYPD can do, even with a new celebrity victim as a rally point.