05.16.17

AMIDST WHITE HOUSE PLAN TO AXE VITAL DRUG PREVENTION OFFICE THAT ONEIDA COUNTY DESPERATELY NEEDS, SCHUMER RENEWS PUSH TO DESIGNATE ONEIDA COUNTY AS A ‘HIGH INTENSITY DRUG TRAFFICKING AREA’; ONEIDA COUNTY’S HIDTA APPLICATION NOW HANGS IN THE BALANCE

Oneida County Continues To Experience A Surge Of Heroin Use & Drug-Related Crime—Between 2010 and 2016, Drug Arrests Have Increased By 26%.

Schumer Says HIDTA Program Helps Law Enforcement Effectively Fight Drug Trafficking & Provides The Surveillance, Equipment, & Coordination With Regional Law Enforcement Agencies That Might Be Gutted In The Administration’s Budget

Schumer: Eliminating This Program Will Make It Harder For Oneida County To Combat Scourge of Drugs

 

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today revealed that Utica’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) application hangs in the balance due to the administration’s proposed cuts to Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). ONDCP is the agency that oversees the HIDTA program and it is overseen within the White House. Schumer said New York State is home to 24 HIDTAs, with Oneida County in the process of becoming the 25th..  Each one is essential to efforts combating heroin and other drug trafficking throughout Upstate New York, Schumer says.

“Recently, in the face of the ongoing heroin and opioid scourge, Oneida County applied to be added to the HIDTA program, but I am concerned the application will die on the vine due to the administration’s very unwise potential budget cut,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. Schumer said it is critical to add Oneida County to this program and for the administration to stop any proposed cuts to ONDCP which will prevent places like Oneida County from getting the resources it needs to combat drug trafficking and overdose deaths.

“I’ve called on the Feds to designate Oneida County as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, because we need this designation to quell the ongoing opioid epidemic. I am urging the administration to not only approve this application but to reverse course on its proposal to gut the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP),” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “Any proposal to eliminate funding for programs like HIDTA, which is instrumental in aiding local enforcement to prevent drug trafficking in many communities, would effectively make our neighborhoods less safe. The HIDTA program has been essential to providing vital resources to 24 counties across New York, and I hope Oneida County will be added as the 25th. I will fight tooth and nail to keep HIDTA and the agency that oversees it off the partisan chopping block.”

Schumer explained that without this critical designation Oneida Country would be ineligible for federal support. The HIDTA program helps counties address recent and disturbing upticks in heroin usage and drug-related crime by improving coordination among federal and local law enforcement agencies, as well as by providing equipment, technology and additional resources to tackle this challenge. The HIDTA program funds intelligence-sharing initiatives, drug use prevention and drug treatment initiatives, as well as support for programs that provide additional assistance to law enforcement to do in-depth investigation into drug overdoses and crimes. Drug trafficking and overdoses have been on the rise in the Mohawk Valley, with drug arrests increasing 26% from 2010 to 2016 and heroin arrests accounted for nearly 28% of all drug arrests during that time. This increased drug trafficking has had devastating consequences for Oneida county residents—overdose deaths have increased by 188% between 2015 and 2016, with 55 deaths alone last year. In addition, opioid overdoses sent 133 people to the emergency room in the first nine months of last year and led to 49 hospitalizations in the same time period in Oneida County. Schumer argues the HIDTA designation however will help address the growing threat of drug trafficking.

“I have worked long and hard – at the request of many local Upstate police departments and mayors – to extend their participation in High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area programs. They help local communities coordinate with federal entities to fight the opioid and heroin drug scourge. Places like Oneida County need this program and that is why any cuts will take the legs out of our anti-drug interdiction efforts,” Schumer added.

Schumer noted that the goal of the federal government’s drug policy is to build safe and healthy communities, and to supplement the hard work already being done by local law enforcement. Many Oneida County law enforcement agencies already have specialized units to conduct narcotics enforcement and despite their efforts and success, Oneida County’s challenges require federal resources to bolster their work. Designating Oneida County as part of the NY/NJ HIDTA would allow the county to expand its drug intelligence network and to provide additional coverage. For example, HIDTA funding would enable Oneida County to fill a full time crime analyst position that would allow local law enforcement to analyze regional drug trafficking trends and to identify where targeted efforts would have the most impact.

Schumer added Oneida County should be considered a high intensity drug trafficking area because it is located between all of the major distribution hubs within New York State. Utica especially operates as a regional distribution hub as drug traffickers move from eastern distribution centers to western distribution centers. Also with Oneida County’s proximity to New York City, a large amount of illegal drugs flow through the county to the rest of Upstate New York and into New England. Heroin originating from New York City and Philadelphia has been identified by law enforcement in many areas throughout Upstate New York.

Schumer has long championed the effort to expand the HIDTA program throughout Upstate New York, having advocated for numerous existing HIDTAs through the long federal application process. Most recently in the just passed federal spending bill, Schumer helped secure a $4 million increase to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Program, which brings the entire pot to $254 million.

The New York/New Jersey HIDTA is one of 28 HIDTAs nationwide, which include approximately 16 percent of all counties in the United States and 60 percent of the U.S. population. There are currently 24 counties in New York that are part of the NY/NJ HIDTA. HIDTA Drug Intelligence Officers in each area are constantly gathering and sharing information to assess drug trafficking patterns, and develop strategies to address the unique needs of each area. The DIO also works with HIDTA officials in New York City to arrange needed funding for equipment and manpower, and coordinates initiatives between local, state, and federal law enforcement officials.

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. Many in Upstate New York are already HIDTA-designated counties, meaning that they receive federal resources to combat drug trafficking and sales. 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 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. 

A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to Acting Director Baum is included below:

 

Dear Acting Director Baum,

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has been a vital partner to Congress as we work to curtail the uptick of prescription drug and heroin abuse across the nation. Since its creation in 1988, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program ran by the ONDCP has been particularly successful in strengthening local efforts to confront the epidemic and reduce the supply of illicit drugs. Today, I write to express my strong support for the inclusion of Oneida County into the HIDTA program.

Over the past several years, we have seen the rise in heroin and illicit drug use plague countless communities across the country, including those in Upstate, New York. In recent years, Oneida County has seen significant increases in the trafficking of narcotics, specifically heroin and synthetic fentanyl. Unfortunately, drug addicts have turned to these dangerous opioids as a cheaper, more accessible alternative than prescription drugs, such as oxycodone. In fact, in 2016 there were 38 deaths in Oneida County resulting from opioid overdoses. In addition, Oneida County saw 538 adult misdemeanor drug arrests and 310 adult felony drug arrests in 2016, an increase of 26% from 2010. In response to this outbreak, Oneida County has created a regional drug enforcement unit in an effort to strengthen their ability to combat narcotics trafficking in the region.

Despite these efforts, Oneida County cannot combat this crisis alone. In order to eradicate the production and flow of drugs into the community, Oneida needs the additional federal resources and intelligence-sharing that is only available through a HIDTA designation.  As such, I ask that the ONDCP designate Oneida County as a HIDTA in order to help curb this emerging dilemma. The NY/NJ HIDTA has been essential to areas of New York that have been ravaged by heroin and opioid abuse, acting as a powerful resource for counties that are looking for new innovative ways to prevent drug abuse.  The additional resources and expertise the program brings to local communities are essential in our fight against drug abuse.  In New York City, HIDTA’s work in partnership with New York City Department of Health, the New York Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and other partners, has helped grow and develop the RxStat program, which has become a model for the country in how to use overdose data and other technological resources. With HIDTA’s support and guidance, NYC has worked to share these ideas and approaches with areas all across the state, and HIDTA-designated counties are in the best position to use and embrace these ideas.

Again, thank you for your dedicated efforts to keeping the citizens of New York and the United States healthy and safe. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

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