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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 2, 2009

SCHUMER PRESSES DRUG CZAR NOMINEE TO COMMIT TO INCREASE RESOURCES TO BATTLE SCOURGE OF GANG AND DRUG RELATED CRIME IN THE CAPITAL REGION


In Wake Of Department Of Justice Report Indicating That Drug Gangs From Mexico are Active in the United States, Schumer Presses Drug Czar Nominee Gil Kerlikowske To Increases Resources Available To Fight Drug Related Crime

Schumer Secures Pledge Not To Divert Resources From New York To Fight Crime Along The Southern Border

At Least One Case of an Affiliate of a Mexican D

United States Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that he has secured a commitment from President Obama’s nominee to be the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (“ONDCP”), or “Drug Czar,” Gil Kerlikowske, to keep resources in place to fight gangs and drug related crime in the Capital Region, and not divert manpower or dollars to the Mexican border.  Schumer noted that there has been a great deal of media attention focused on the explosion of crime along the United States border with Mexico in recent weeks.  However, in light of the recent DOJ report revealing evidence of affiliates of Mexican drug trafficking organizations operating throughout the United States – with a case reported in each Albany and Buffalo - there is more of a need than ever for resources to fight drug related crime here in New York.  Kerlikowske, who was once the Police Commissioner of Buffalo, said he recognized the problem of gang and drug related violence in communities across New York State, and pledged to address it and not divert resources away from The Capital Region. 

 

Schumer also pushed Kerlikowske to recommend an increase of funding to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, of which Erie County is a member.  HIDTA provides local law enforcement with federal money and assistance to clamp down on drug related crimes, and is instrumental in both fighting violence related to drugs and in breaking up drug smuggling organizations that can decimate communities. 

 

“I am reassured by Mr. Kerlikowske’s commitment not to divert resources away from the Capital Region,” said Schumer.  “I believe he will be aggressive in assisting the law enforcement community battle gangs, and other participants in drug related crimes.”

 

 A recent Justice Department report indicated that gangs are becoming increasingly involved in wholesale-level drug trafficking, aided by their connections with drug trafficking organizations, particularly Mexican gangs. Gangs are active in drug distribution, particularly at the retail level, throughout the United States, and their involvement in drug distribution at the wholesale level is increasing. According to law enforcement reporting and survey data, gangs are involved in drug distribution, primarily at the retail level, in every state in the country, particularly in urban and suburban areas but also in many rural communities. The report singled out three cities in Upstate New York State in which local law enforcement have reported a drug case connected to Drug Trafficking Organizations from Mexico: Buffalo, Albany

 

Schumer, responding to this disturbing news and other incidents of gang and drug related violence in the Capital Region, requested that the incoming Drug Czar pledge, in his effort to fight drug related crime near the Mexican border, to not divert resources from New York State.  Kerlikowske agreed not to divert any resources, and pledged to assist communities facing problems stemming from gang involvement in drug related crimes.  He also agreed to have people from across the state on the HIDTA Executive Board, so that no region’s crime problem is left unknown.  Schumer secured these commitments at Kerlikowske’s confirmation hearing, held the afternoon of April 1st.

 

The principal purpose of Office of National Drug Control Policy is to establish policies, priorities, and objectives for the Nation's drug control program. The goals of the program are to reduce illicit drug use, manufacturing, and trafficking, drug-related crime and violence, and drug-related health consequences. To achieve these goals, the Director of ONDCP is charged with producing the National Drug Control Strategy. The Strategy directs the Nation's anti-drug efforts and establishes a program, a budget, and guidelines for cooperation among Federal, State, and local entities.

 

By law, the Director of ONDCP also evaluates, coordinates, and oversees both the international and domestic anti-drug efforts of executive branch agencies and ensures that such efforts sustain and complement State and local anti-drug activities. The Director advises the President regarding changes in the organization, management, budgeting, and personnel of Federal Agencies that could affect the Nation's anti-drug efforts; and regarding Federal agency compliance with their obligations under the Strategy.

 

Background on the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Program:

 

The mission of the HIDTA program is to disrupt the market for illegal drugs in the United States by assisting federal, state, and local law enforcement entities to dismantle and disrupt drug trafficking organizations – with an emphasis on drug trafficking regions that have harmful effects on other parts of the United States.  Since 1990, 28 regions in the United States, comprising 14% of U.S. counties, have been designated as HIDTAs and are eligible to receive targeted funding through the program.  A HIDTA is regarded as a coordinating umbrella for federal, state and local agencies.  The goal of the HIDTA program is to enhance integration and invest in partnerships between federal, state, and local agencies, while eliminating unnecessary overlap and duplication of efforts.  Once the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the office that runs the HIDTA program, designates a region as a HIDTA, it can receive federal money to help local law enforcement clamp down on illegal drugs transported through those counties.  The particular HIDTA’s Executive Board then allocates funding in order to fight drug trafficking in the region most effectively.  

 

The New York/New Jersey HIDTA program, with its main offices in Manhattan, currently encompasses 17 counties located throughout New York and northeastern New Jersey.  The New York portion of the region consists of the five boroughs of New York City (Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island), the two outer counties of Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk), Westchester County, and four upstate counties that were added in 2007: Albany, Erie, Monroe, and Onondaga.  The New Jersey portion consists of Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Passaic, and Union Counties.  The New York/New Jersey HIDTA is led by an Executive Board consisting of 24 federal, state, and local law enforcement leaders, and has partnerships with over 100 federal, state, local, and non-government agencies within the New York metropolitan area and beyond.

 

Senator Schumer was a strong supporter of expanding the existing HIDTA to include Onondaga, Albany, Erie and Monroe Counties, and wrote at the time to ONDCP, urging action.  The addition of the four counties in 2007 has played a significant role in facilitating communication between state, local and federal law enforcement agencies, and in disrupting and dismantling drug trafficking and money laundering organizations in the region.  Already, HIDTA funds have been used to hire full-time drug intelligence officers, and money has been set aside for state, local, and federal task forces.  The hiring of the two new intelligence agents to be stationed near the northern border was possible because of funds that were made available through the 2007 expansion.

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