Interview With Assistant Sheriff Victor Fazio
COAST has enjoyed the collaboration of COAST Leads from agencies within Ventura County, including Public Health, Emergency Medical Services, Medical Examiner’s Office, Health Care Agency and Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.
Tell us about your background. How long you’ve been with VCSO and what your role is?
I started my career with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office in 1994. I worked a variety of assignments throughout the agency spending a large portion of my career investigating narcotics related offenses. During my 16 years assigned to the narcotics division, I commanded two multi-agency task forces. One task force focused on the proliferation of pharmaceutical drugs and the surge of heroin and opioid related overdose deaths. The other task force was dedicated to identifying and neutralizing drug trafficking organizations at the highest level.
I was proud to also serve the City of Moorpark – which contracts law enforcement services with the Sheriff’s Office – as Chief of Police for nearly four years from 2019-2023. In January of 2023, Sheriff Fryhoff appointed me as one of his four Assistant Sheriffs. I have the honor of leading the Special Services Division which includes Major Crimes, Narcotics, Bomb and Arson Unit, Criminal Intelligence, Crime Analysis, Crime Lab, Air Unit, Crime Scenes Investigation Unit, SWAT, Tactical Negotiations Unit, Technical Services Unit, and Sheriff’s Systems Bureau which is responsible for hardware, software, and new technology.
What can you tell us about FOCUS?
The Ventura County Fentanyl and Overdose Crimes Units (VC FOCUS) is the rebranding of the Ventura County Interagency Pharmaceutical Crimes Unit. The mission of VC FOCUS is to actively address overdoses and fentanyl related crimes in Ventura County through enforcement, prevention, education, and partnerships. Investigations by VC FOCUS will create accountability, education supports prevention, and public partnerships assist in fostering increased awareness of this epidemic. VC FOCUS is comprised of two units of law enforcement representation from the east and west side of Ventura County.
VC FOCUS will be relentless in making communities safe from fentanyl and other opioids. Through partnerships with COAST, Federal, State, and Local Law enforcement, the Justice System and the Community, VC FOCUS will strive to eliminate the root cause to addiction and deaths caused by illicit opioids.
What do you think readers should know about the opioid crisis in Ventura County currently?
Without bold action, the opioid crisis isn’t going anywhere soon. Unless we work together, we will never solve the problems related to opioid misuse and abuse. We have a seemingly endless supply of fentanyl coming from Mexico and sourced by China. Unfortunately, there is a long-standing appetite for opioids in our county which continues to poison our residents. We must be united in education and prevention efforts, understand the importance of harm reduction, and maintain a desire to hold drug dealers accountable. This isn’t solely a law enforcement problem, a behavioral health issue, or a public health responsibility, it is an all of us problem that needs all of us to solve it.
Tell us one thing about you that helps us get to know you better?
I enjoy teaching and have instructed well over 10,000 law enforcement officers, health care providers, and community members throughout the nation on various law enforcement related topics. Additionally, I am an Adjunct Criminal Justice Professor for the University of Southern California as well as Arizona State University in both graduate and undergraduate programs. I also like learning, researching, and writing. I have a bachelor’s degree from UCLA in political science, a master’s degree from ASU in criminal justice, and a doctorate in education from USC where my research was focused on reducing harms caused by opioids through physician education.
Thank you, Victor, for sharing your valuable experience with us!