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Exclusive Look Inside “The Drug Burn”

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Customs and Border Protection burns illegal drugs. (Source: CBS4)

Customs and Border Protection burns illegal drugs. (Source: CBS4)

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Brian Andrews joins the CBS4 News Special Projects team a...
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South Florida Crime

MIAMI (CBSMiami) -If there was ever an image of what hell might look like it would be what someone would see if they looked through a tiny window at a secret facility located in South Florida.

The incinerator burns hundreds of pounds of illegal drugs and other evidence seized by law enforcement agencies that fall under the Department of Homeland Security. The window offers a glimpse where the evidence is destroyed.

“The narcotics that were thrown in there have no chance,” said Customs and Border Protection’s Assistant Port Director Robert Del Toro.

While the exact frequency evidence that is destroyed is kept classified, these “Destruction Operations” as they are called happen more often than someone might think.

Videos of marijuana burn operations have made their way through late night comedy circuit and on YouTube, but what happens in South Florida is a lot more sophisticated and secure than a bunch of men standing around in a field inhaling fumes.

The process begins at another secret South Florida location where Customs and Border Protection keeps contraband evidence locked up in what’s called the vault which is stacked with shelves full of evidence.

When prosecutors no longer need it stored for trial, it’s slated to be destroyed.

The drugs to be destroyed are never moved at the same time, in the same manner, or along the same route, for security purposes. The caravan from the vault to the destruction location is always heavily guarded by a Special Response Team.

Those who are part of the operation are referred to as the burn committee. This committee sees the operation through from loading to destruction.

Box after box is unloaded and tossed into a giant compactor. Then, it’s mixed with other trash, and dropped into a giant incinerator where it becomes a pile of ash in a matter of seconds.

“It sends a message to the bad guys,” says Agent Del Toro. “When you try to smuggle drugs into our country, we’re going to seize them and destroy them.”

On the day CBS4 News observed the destruction operation, there were more than 4,000 pounds of contraband.

And there is one unexpected benefit of the destruction operation. The process of destroying the drugs and evidence is used to generate electricity that powers South Florida homes.

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