There was a spike in heroin smuggling at Dulles International Airport this year, according to officials.
Authorities have seized more than $5 million worth of drugs at the airport, officials said. Last year, 6,900 grams of heroin were seized. This year, that number jumped up to 23,500 grams.
The drug has "circled back around again and we've seen a spike in heroin coming into the country," according to Christopher Downing, Customs and Border Protection officer.
It is suspected that the high street value of heroin in this down economy is behind the spike, according to ICE. At about $150 a gram, a typical heroin seizure is worth between $75,000 to $750,000.
Smugglers are getting more creative in the ways they hide the drugs as well, using everything from bed post knobs, luggage handles, seat cushions and religious figures.
The most common smuggling tactic is to swallow heroin capsules, which is very risky. It's also common for the drugs to be concealed in the lining and metal framing of suitcases, authorities said.
"If our economy is bad, [the smugglers] don't have jobs," Downing said. This is a "means to support themselves."
Multiple layers are in place to make sure smugglers don't leave the airport, from already gathered intelligence, an alerted primary officer and cold hits from a drug dog, said David Bearon, ICE Homeland Security Investigations agent.
Airline passenger Alexander Berto is from Mexico. He believes the root of the smuggling problem comes down to consumption in the U.S.