SCHUMER ANNOUNCES, AFTER HIS PUSH, NEW CRIME FIGHTING RESOURCES COMING TO ULSTER COUNTY WITH DESIGNATION OF COUNTY AS “HIGH INTENSITY DRUG TRAFFICKING AREA” – DESIGNATION WILL NOW MEAN ADDITIONAL RESOURCES TO FIGHT HEROIN SCOURGE
Ulster County, Like The Rest Of The Hudson Valley, Has Experienced Explosion Of Heroin Use & An Increase in Drug-Related Crime
Schumer Previously Called on Fed. Office of Drug Control to Designate Ulster A ‘High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area’ to Provide Additional Fed Resources, Expertise and Coordination to Disrupt Drug Crimes & Usage
Schumer: This Designation Will Bring Resources, Expertise & Intel To Help Ulster Battle Heroin Scourge
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that the President’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has designated Ulster County a federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). This designation will now help Ulster County address a recent and disturbing uptick in heroin usage and drug-related crime by improving coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as providing equipment, technology and additional resources that the County needs to tackle this challenge. In August 2014, Schumer pushed ONDCP to provide Ulster County with this HIDTA designation, noting that heroin seizures in Ulster County tripled between 2007 and 2014 and drug-related arrests have increased from 2013 to 2014. Schumer said that he is pleased to hear ONDCP has agreed, after his urging, to designate Ulster County as a HIDTA in order to curb this emerging threat.
“For too long, heroin use, fatal overdoses, and drug-related crimes have been on the rise, plaguing Upstate New York communities like those in Ulster County. Ulster 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 Ulster County a ‘High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area,’” said 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.”
In August of 2014, Schumer called on the President’s Office of National Drug Control Policy to establish Ulster County as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. Schumer explained that Ulster County previously applied for HIDTA designation but was denied the label in 2014. As a result, Schumer launched a renewed push to have the county receive this designation. As a part of his renewed push, Schumer cited a 2014 case in which 40 drug-trafficking arrests were made in Ulster County as part of the police department’s “Operation Spring Cleaning” to underscore the need for continued vigilance and additional resources. As a part of the April 2014 sting, police seized 1,000 bags of heroin, which is only 400 fewer bags than the Ulster County Sherriff’s Office seized in 2011 and 2012 combined. Schumer therefore urged ONDCP to designate Ulster County as a HIDTA in order to curb this emerging threat.
This designation will prioritize resources for Ulster County, as well as promote greater coordination between local, state, and federal law enforcement personnel in the region. In support of these efforts, the HIDTA program will fund intelligence-sharing initiatives, drug use prevention and drug treatment initiatives, and general support for programs that provide assistance to law enforcement beyond their normal scope of duty. Schumer said there are currently 28 HIDTAs across the U.S., including one for the New York-New Jersey region; the ONDCP announcement today adds 14 counties to those existing HIDTAs nationwide. 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 noted that the goal of the federal government’s drug policy is to build safe and healthy communities, and a HIDTA designation for Ulster would help supplement the hard work already being done by Ulster County law enforcement. Schumer said that this designation will now be critical to Ulster law enforcement, as they will now have many as resources at their disposal as possible in the fight against heroin usage and trafficking.
Ulster County Executive Mike Hein said, “Ulster County is pleased to be joining the neighboring counties of the Hudson Valley in the HIDTA program, and ensuring all hands are on deck to fight the dangerous drug trafficking and heroin epidemic plaguing the region, state and nation. This will ensure we have all available resources, federal, state and local, fighting together against the dangerous traffickers who bring these drugs in Ulster County. This is one of many tools to fight back against this epidemic, and I thank Senator Schumer for going to bat for Ulster and the entire Hudson Valley. I know Ulster County law enforcement will work together with their federal partners to ensure we are doing everything we can do stop heroin and other drugs form being sold in Ulster County.”
A copy of Senator Schumer’s original letter to the ONDCP appears below:
Dear Director Botticelli,
Thank you for your continuous efforts to combat drug abuse throughout the country. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has been a vital partner to Congress as we work to curtail drug abuse across the nation. Since its creation in 1988, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program ran by the ONDCP has been highly successful combating abusive outbreaks of a variety of dangerous drugs. Today, I write to reiterate my request for help from the HIDTA program. In my home state of New York, Ulster County is experiencing a public health crisis.
The use of heroin has skyrocketed over the past several years, and is harming citizens throughout the county. Heroin seizures in Ulster County have tripled since 2007, and to date, heroin seizures have nearly tripled since last year. As of July 2015, the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office has seized 4865 decks of heroin so far this year. That is an increase from 1722 decks of heroin seized in all of 2014. Unfortunately, as we have cracked down on prescription drug abuse, addicts have turned to heroin as a cheaper, more accessible alternative to drugs such as oxycodone.
I understand that Ulster County Sheriff will soon be resubmitting an application to become a HIDTA-designated county, and I urge you to seriously consider their application. 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. In New York City, HIDTA’s work in partnership with the NYPD 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, they are now working to share these ideas and approaches with areas all across the state, and HIDTA designated counties will be in the best position to use and embrace these ideas.
I believe that the conditions in Ulster today are such that it will dramatically benefit from the HIDTA system, so I am renewing my request that you include them in the program.
Again, thank you for your dedicated efforts to keep the citizens of New York and the United States healthy and safe and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Charles E. Schumer
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