09.13.16

SCHUMER: HEROIN RAGING IN NIAGARA COUNTY AND THE FEDS NEED TO GET MORE INVOLVED – SENATOR LAUNCHES PUSH TO DESIGNATE NIAGARA AS HIGH-INTENSITY DRUG TRAFFICKING AREA, WHICH WILL MEAN ADDITIONAL RESOURCES, INTELLIGENCE, AND COORDINATION TO HELP DISRUPT TRAFFICKING; EFFORT HAS BEEN EFFECTIVE IN OTHER NEW YORK AREAS

Schumer Calls 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: Feds Must Provide Money, Expertise & Intel 

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the President's Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to designate 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.

“We have been losing too many of our young people to the scourge of drug abuse for far too long. Niagara County in particular has seen a rise in crime and heroin-related deaths that is beyond alarming. The numbers have jumped, especially among kids aged 18 to 24, and that’s a trend we need to reverse now,” said Senator Schumer. “So I am calling on the feds to designate Niagara County as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area to dispense more resources, technical expertise and law enforcement personnel, to combat heroin use. The victims of heroin use are too often our children. More must be done to curtail the spike in heroin use and rescue more Niagara County residents from the bane of drug addiction.”

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 wants 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 a HIDTA designation for Niagara would help supplement the hard work already being done by Niagara County law enforcement. Schumer said that it is critical for Niagara law enforcement to have as many resources at their disposal as possible in the fight against heroin usage and trafficking. 

Schumer noted his push is aimed at curbing the supply of drugs, but he said it is 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 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.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator

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