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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 28, 2014

WITH HEROIN USAGE ON STATEN ISLAND AT EPIDEMIC LEVELS, SCHUMER CALLS FOR EMERGENCY SURGE OF FED. ANTI-DRUG TRAFFICKING FUNDING TO UPROOT NEW ‘HEROIN PIPELINE’ - FROM MEXICO TO NYC; NYC HAS BECOME HOTBED FOR HEROIN TRADE ON EAST COAST, WITH SEIZURES ALREADY HIGHER IN 2014 THAN ANY YEAR SINCE 1991---ON STATEN ISLAND, HEROIN SEIZURES JUMPED 300 PERCENT FROM 2011 TO 2013


Heroin-Related Overdoses on Staten Island Are On the Rise & NYC Has Become East Coast Hub for Heroin Trade -- Law Enforcement Officials Account for Surge As Larger-Scale Drug Dealers Enter NYC Market to Feed Growing Desire for Heroin from Staten Island, Where Heroin Use Skyrocketing


Schumer Calls for an Emergency Surge Of $100M for Fed. High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program in The Senate Approps Bill Being Considered in Coming Weeks & Urged the Dept. of Justice to Prioritize HIDTA Funding – HIDTA Provides Unique Intelligence, Surveillance, Coordination With NYPD, Feds, Locals That Allows Dismantling of Drug Rings


Schumer: We All Saw the Horrors Caused By the Crack Epidemic When Left Unchecked by Feds & Other Law Enforcement – Can’t Let NYC & Staten Island Become Hotbed for Heroin

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today, alongside Luke Nasta of Camelot of Staten Island, called for an emergency $100 million surge of federal anti-drug trafficking funding in order to quickly combat the fact that New York City has become the hotbed for the East Coast heroin trade. Schumer noted that recent reports indicated a “heroin pipeline” has formed from Mexico to New York City, Staten Island and beyond to places like Boston, and Vermont where heroin use is skyrocketing. A recent New York Times story notes that the amount of heroin seized thus far in 2014 already surpasses heroin seizures in any year since 1991. Schumer is therefore calling for an additional $100 million in federal funds to be allocated to the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Program as part of the Senate Appropriations bill that is being considered in the coming weeks. Schumer is also urging the Department of Justice to reallocate funding for HIDTA programs. This will give the New York/New Jersey HIDTA the boost in funding it needs to better assess the unique drug trafficking patterns forming in the region, which include larger-scale dealers entering the NYC market to feed the growing demand for heroin on the East Coast, and vastly more drugs entering New York City from the southern border. Increased funding for HIDTA would also help develop coordinated strategies and information-sharing between the feds, NYPD, local law enforcement, as well as state and local public health officials, and would provide additional resources to build better cases against heroin dealers. Schumer today said that heroin trafficking and usage are at epidemic levels, and HIDTA is the key agency to target this deadly drug as it travels from Mexico to New York City.

“Seizures of heroin in New York City in 2014 have already surpassed those of any previous year since 1991, which demonstrates an alarming trend that we must nip in the bud. It is clear that we need an emergency surge of funding to help combat New York City’s emergence as a trade hub for heroin on the East Coast,” said Schumer. “We all remember the horrors caused by the crack epidemic when it was left unchecked by federal officials and other law enforcement, and that’s why today I am urging my Senate colleagues to provide $100 million in extra federal anti-drug tracking dollars for the New York/New Jersey HIDTA, and others like it across the country, so that we can adequately crack down on drugs traveling from Mexico to New York City including on Staten Island.”

“As a medic on the battlefield in the war against drugs, I have experienced waves of premature death brought on by insufficient knowledge of the dangers of recreational drug use, a proliferation of available drugs, and inadequate dedicated governmental resources to stabilize the problem and treat the afflicted.  We need to respond to the devastating epidemic that causes death and destruction with a full-out surge of resources that employs all means and methods to prevent, treat, and interdict harmful addictive substances,” said Luke Nasta of Camelot.

Schumer urged his colleagues on the Senate subcommittee that are preparing the FY2015 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, to boost funding from $238,522,000  to $338,522,000. Schumer said that this would provide HIDTA programs nationwide, which are in dire need of emergency assistance, with an additional $100 million. The Office of National Drug Control Policy's HIDTA program has been instrumental in the fight against prescription drug abuse, and as they turn their attention to heroin, Schumer said in his letter that they need our continued support. Schumer is also urging the Department of Justice to search their budget and prioritize putting additional funding towards the HIDTA program.

Schumer said that this emergency surge of funding will help strengthen the unique intelligence, surveillance and coordination that HIDTA provides, which is critical in tracking and dismantling drug rings. Under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 and the ONDCP Reauthorization Act of 2006, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is authorized to declare areas that exhibit serious drug trafficking problems as HIDTAs if local law enforcement groups petition for the designation. The counties in-and-around-New York City, as well as many in the Hudson Valley and Upstate New York, are already HIDTA-designated counties, meaning that they receive federal resources to combat drug trafficking and sales. There are currently 28 HIDTAs nationwide, which include approximately 16 percent of all counties in the United States and 60 percent of the U.S. population. HIDTA-designated counties are located in 46 states.

The purpose of HIDTA is to reduce drug trafficking and production in the United States. The program’s goal is to facilitate cooperation among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies; to share information and implement coordinated enforcement activities; to enhance intelligence sharing among law enforcement agencies as well as public health officials; to provide reliable law enforcement intelligence to law enforcement agencies to facilitate the design of effective enforcement strategies; and to support coordinated law enforcement strategies that make the most of available resources to reduce the supply of illegal drugs in the U.S. 

According to the Department of Justice, heroin availability has increased since 2012, most likely due to an increase in Mexican heroin production and Mexican traffickers expanding into the eastern and Midwest U.S. markets. According to the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York and a report from the New York Times, the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico has been using cocaine trafficking routes to export heroin.

In New York City, Staten Island has the highest death rate for heroin overdoses. According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, heroin-related overdose deaths increased 84 percent between 2010 and 2012 in New York City. According to the New York Times, from 2011 to 2013, the amount of heroin seized on Staten Island by the NYPD has increased more than 300 percent.

A recent New York Times article pointed to the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York, Bridget Brennan, whose office documented more than 288 pounds of heroin seized in the first four months of 2014. The report notes that approximately 35 percent of heroin seized by the DEA since October occurred in New York State.

Earlier this month, more than 53 pounds of heroin, worth $11 million, were seized in raids in the Bronx. In April, $12 million worth of heroin was seized in Manhattan; the DEA said that investigators believed it was intended for distribution in New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

Schumer today said that an increase in funding for HIDTA will help better assess the drug tracking patterns in New York and help develop coordinated strategies and information-sharing between federal agencies such as DOJ and HHS with local law enforcement.

A copy of Schumer’s letter is below:

Dear Chairwoman Mikulski and Ranking Member Shelby,

As your subcommittee continues to prepare the FY2015 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, I respectfully write to request your support for funding to a federal program that is in dire need of increased funding.

Over the last several years, a disturbing and dangerous trend has begun to emerge.  Heroin, a drug once thought of as only for the most serious of drug users, has infiltrated our cities, towns, and local schools.  My home state of New York has been especially ravaged by this increase in abuse.  In 2012, thirty-six people died from heroin overdoses in Staten Island alone, and that is just and that is just a small sample of the havoc this drug has brought upon the state.  The amount of heroin seized in investigations that involve New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor is already higher this year than any full year that the office has kept data, while Upstate and Western New York have fared no better.  All across the state, the price of a tenth of a gram has plummeted to roughly $10, which has effectively made heroin easier to acquire than other opioids such as hydrocodone or oxycodone.  It has become so prevalent across the state that 35% of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s total seizures nationwide have been by New York agents.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy has been instrumental in the fight against prescription drug abuse, and as they turn their attention to heroin, they need our continued support.  That is why I am asking that this year you increase funding for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Program to $338,522,000.  I realize this level is significantly higher than the fiscal year 2014 approved appropriation as well as the recommendation of the President; however it is imperative that we assist local officials in every way possible to prevent heroin from becoming more of a crisis than it already is.  The crack epidemic in the 1980’s is an example of what can happen when a dangerous drug is left unchecked by federal officials, and we must take action.  Not only has the HIDTA program been essential to New York, but it has helped facilitate cooperation and information sharing among law enforcement agencies and public health officials alike all across the country.  They provide vital technical and substantive support to local law enforcement as they work cases from beginning to end, trying to locate and track the individuals responsible for bringing this epidemic within our borders.  As a federal program not directly tied to any one agency, the HIDTA program is uniquely positioned to serve as a platform to bring public safety and public health officials together as they both strive for the same goal: preventing dangerous drug abuse.  ONDCP and HIDTAs can ensure that all officials with a vested interest in preventing drug abuse, and especially the rise of heroin abuse, have a venue to discuss and implement their ideas and potential solutions.

The NY/NJ HIDTA has begun to take these important steps, organizing a meeting to bring federal, state and local officials from both the public health sphere and public safety sector together in order to streamline overdose data processing and try to pinpoint where abuse is most prevalent using data-driven approaches.  However, they cannot implement these strategies without our help.  I believe that increased funding is warranted considering the scope of the heroin crisis nationwide and the integral role HIDTAs play in ensuring the continued health and safety of our citizens.

 

Thank you for all your work on the appropriations process, and for your consideration of this important request.

 

Sincerely,

 

Charles E. Schumer

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