LI Efforts To Choke Off Drugs & Drug Trafficking Are Achieved Through Their Special Schumer-Backed Designation Called “HIDTA”  

Schumer To Feds: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t ‘Fix It’; LI Needs HIDTA Support To Win Opioid War

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today both slammed and warned against a recent Washington proposal that could jeopardize the future of a federal drug fighting program Long Island law enforcement agencies depend on: HIDTA. Over the years, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program has provided both millions of dollars and a lot of direct federal support for Long Island’s intelligence-sharing and drug investigation initiatives. Schumer said the HIDTA program was created to help create efficiency across multiple law enforcement agencies—and works. However, the administration’s recent budget proposal puts forth a plan that would essentially dismembering the HIDTA office and move it from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) directly in the White House to the Justice Department, creating needless bureaucracy and inefficiency that could translate into lives on Long Island, especially in the midst of the opioid war locals are combatting.  

“There is no question that Long Island needs the HIDTA initiative and they need it working in its current form. The proposal in the administration’s budget to shuffle the deck and bury the HIDTA office within the bowels of the Department of Justice, outside the direct purview of the White House, would be akin to putting Long Island law enforcement on hold when they make a call to the feds for real-time help,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.“My message to the feds when it comes to Long Island’s HIDTA, especially in the midst of the opioid scourge on this nation is: if it ain’t broke, please don’t ‘fix’ it. Right now, the HIDTA funds Long Island receives are administered directly by the Office of National Drug Control – a direct extension of the White House. This allows Long Island law enforcement to essentially circumvent DC bureaucracy in their efforts to choke off trafficking and combat the opioid war. Dismembering this office, for whatever the reason may be, will undermine Long Island law enforcement’s ability to push a coordinated enforcement strategy, and we just can’t let that happen. So, I am fighting to keep Long Island’s HIDTA unchanged and in place, as is. Its record of local success and support speaks for itself, and Long Island deserves the opportunity to continue having its voice heard.”

“Long Island is fighting a war against opiates and we need every resource we can get to help save lives.  I thank Senator Schumer for his outspoken leadership in working to keep critical HIDTA funding available” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.

“Since the inception of HIDTA, this essential program has always provided ingenious methods to combat the illegal drug epidemic that plaques our country.  Our current Opioid crisis is at a point where there can be no breakdown in funding or communication between our law enforcement partners. Over the years, HIDTA has funded essential technology, has placed DIO’s (Drug Intelligence Officers) in both Nassau and Suffolk and recently has encouraged agencies to implement the new Over Dose MAP to analyze data. HIDTA supports all federal, state and local law enforcement agencies equally and strongly encourages all partners to work cohesively towards a goal” said Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.

Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said, "The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program is a critically important part of our multi-front effort to combat the devastating epidemic of heroin and opioid abuse that continues to devastate Long Island communities. I commend Senator Schumer for his work to safeguard this important law enforcement initiative.”

As it stands, the administration’s proposal to change Long Island’s HIDTA practices would begin by moving the oversight of the national $275 million dollar drug prevention program to the bowels of the Department of Justice, where many Long Island and New York law enforcement officials fear their coordinated efforts to choke off drug trafficking, opioid usage and dealing would be hampered. The plan could also change the type of federal support Long Island receives because trafficking grants would no longer be decided in the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The federal dollars received by Long Island would instead totally bypass the White House’s National Drug Strategy and instead be subject to the decision making of an agency bureaucrat within the Department of Justice. Under this new initiative, the program administrators may not even talk to Long Island’s local law enforcement community. Instead of the four corners of government coming together and combining federal, state, local law enforcement, and public health officials under one objective, this move would essentially silo our drug-fighting efforts and return us to the old way of agencies operating on different paths.

According to the New York Times, Chauncey Parker, the director of the program task force in New York City, said, “In the middle of this huge epidemic, is now the time to start rearranging the deck chairs? O.N.D.C.P. are the experts and the professionals on this issue, and they’re the best ones from a holistic standpoint to be able to take a look at all of this.”

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 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. 

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 25 counties in New York that are part of the NY/NJ HIDTA, including Nassau County, Suffolk County and New York City. The HIDTA program provides $275 million annually. Since 2002, Long Island has received over $2 million in special HIDTA funds and countless additional federal resources to assists with investigations and anti-trafficking initiatives.

Schumer explained a few examples of the ways in which ONDCP and HIDTA have assisted Long Island. For instance, in Suffolk County, HIDTA funded a full-time drug analyst for the SCPD, who works out of PDHQ in Yaphank. HIDTA funds were provided for Nassau County and Suffolk County’s data mapping system, which tracks opioid overdoses in each county.

Schumer said 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. This has led to the arrest of drug dealers, and the breaking up of major drug rings that bring fentanyl-laced heroin and other drugs into New York. HIDTA Drug Intelligence Officers (DIOs) in each area are constantly gathering and sharing information to assess drug trafficking patterns, and developing 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.

Schumer today warned that under the just-released administration budget, the HIDTA program would be moved from the ONDCP to the Justice Department. Schumer said that this move could jeopardize critical resources for Long Island and deprive the counties of a vital support as opioids rage.  Schumer said the bureaucratic move makes no sense, as the Office of National Drug Control is made up of key experts in the field.

Already, the opioid epidemic has hit Long Island far too hard. According to the New York State Department of Health, in 2015 there were 172 opioid overdose deaths in Nassau County, including 71 related to heroin; 213 opioid overdose deaths in Suffolk County, including 137 related to heroin. According to the New York Daily News, Nassau and Suffolk Counties reported 493 opioid overdoses in 2016.  According to Newsday, it’s predicted that approximately 600 people on Long Island died from overdoses last year. Schumer today said numbers like these demand we keep in place the kind of support the Long Island HIDTA effort ensures in its current form.


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