SCHUMER ANNOUNCES, AFTER HIS PUSH, NEW CRIME FIGHTING RESOURCES COMING TO NIAGARA COUNTY WITH DESIGNATION OF COUNTY AS “HIGH INTENSITY DRUG TRAFFICKING AREA” – DESIGNATION WILL NOW MEAN ADDITIONAL RESOURCES TO FIGHT SCOURGE & HELP DISRUPT TRAFFICKING
Schumer Successfully Called on Fed. Office of Drug Control to Designate Niagara County A ‘High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area,’ Which Will Provide Much-Needed Resources to Help County Address Growing Drug Problem
Niagara County Has Experienced Explosion of Drug Use Including Fentanyl-Laced Heroin & Meth, As Well As Drug-Related Crime
Schumer: This Designation Will Bring Resources, Expertise & Intel To Help Niagara Battle Heroin Scourge
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that the President’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has designated Niagara County as a federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), which will help the county address the recent and disturbing uptick in meth and heroin usage along with other drug-related crime by improving coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as providing equipment, technology and additional resources to tackle this challenge. This past September, Schumer called on the President’s Office of National Drug Control Policy to establish Niagara County as a HIDTA.
“For too long, heroin use, fatal overdoses, and drug-related crimes have been on the rise, plaguing Upstate New York communities like those in Niagara County. Niagara deserves every federal resource possible to combat the growing scourge of drug trafficking, and that is why I went to bat for the county and called on the feds to designate Niagara County a ‘High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area,’” said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer. “I’m pleased that the ONDCP has finally issued this designation, which will provide technical expertise, more law enforcement personnel and the additional resources needed to combat heroin use and tackle this challenge head-on.”
The HIDTA program funds intelligence-sharing initiatives, drug use prevention and drug treatment initiatives, as well as general support for programs that provide assistance to law enforcement beyond their normal scope of duty. 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 23 counties in New York that are part of the NY/NJ HIDTA, and Schumer pushed for Niagara County to be added. Each HIDTA assesses the drug trafficking threat in its defined area for the upcoming year, develops a strategy to address that threat, designs initiatives to implement the strategy, proposes funding needed to carry out the initiatives, and prepares an annual report describing its performance the previous year.
Schumer stated that in Niagara County, the drug epidemic has become especially troublesome, with increased reports of both fatal opioid-involved overdoses and drug trafficking operations. According to the Niagara County Department of Health, during the 2015 federal investigation, Operation Lockjaw, law enforcement authorities seized over eight kilograms of fentanyl – an amount which represents one of the largest seizures of fentanyl ever in the U.S. The epidemic also presents issues for public health officials, who have seen opioid overdose-related emergency room visits, triple from 48 in 2011 to 186 in 2015. When compared to other areas in NYS, the rate of ER admissions in Niagara County was among the highest 25 counties in the state. Local law enforcement have also reported that levels of violent crime and property crime likely associated with the growing heroin market continues to climb. Schumer noted that the goal of the federal government’s drug policy is to build safe and healthy communities, and this new HIDTA designation for Niagara will help supplement the hard work already being done by Niagara County law enforcement and public health officials.
In September, Schumer noted his push was aimed at curbing the supply of drugs, but he said it was also important to address the demand for drugs in order to stem the tide of this epidemic. Schumer said that treatment is also an important part of the solution, and a HIDTA designation can help with this as well. ONDCP and HIDTA grant funds are being used across the country for local governments to purchase and become educated in the use of Naloxone kits, and designating Niagara as a HIDTA county will help provide additional support for present programs already in place.
A copy of Senator Schumer’s original letter to the ONDCP appears below:
Dear Director Botticelli,
Thank you for your commitment to combatting drug outbreaks across the nation and your work with the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program. Today, I write to express my strong support for the inclusion of Niagara County as a HIDTA county.
Since its creation in 1988, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has been instrumental in the fight against drug abuse across our nation. In recent years, these efforts have extended to stemming the uptick of prescription and heroin drug abuse – an epidemic ravaging communities throughout the state of New York. The HIDTA program has been critical to New York’s efforts in coordinating law enforcement and public health officials operating in areas that are determined critical drug trafficking regions.
In Niagara County, the drug epidemic has become especially troublesome, with increased reports of both drug trafficking operations and fatal opioid-involved overdoses. In fact, during the 2015 federal investigation, Operation Lockjaw, law enforcement authorities seized over eight kilograms of fentanyl – an amount which represents one of the largest seizures of fentanyl ever in the U.S. The epidemic also presents issues for public health officials, who have seen opioid overdose-related emergency room (ER) visits, triple from 48 in 2011 to 186 in 2015. When compared to other areas in NYS, the rate of ER admissions in Niagara County was among the highest 25 counties in the state. Furthermore, law enforcement reports that levels of violent crime and property crime likely associated with the growing heroin market continues to climb.
Last month, Niagara County submitted an application to become a HIDTA designated county. Niagara County plans to use the funding to support a crime analyst position and a Drug Intelligence Officer (DIO) position. The support from these positions will enable them to better analyze public health and safety data associated with emerging drug threats, and gather key drug intelligence information. By bolstering their information sharing, the DIO will be able to provide significant support to drug investigations throughout the entire county.
Given the enormous benefits HIDTA status will provide to Niagara County, I urge you to strongly consider its application, and designate Niagara County as a HIDTA. Again, thank you for your dedicated efforts to keeping the citizens of New York and the United States safe, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
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