02.17.15

SCHUMER: WAR ON HEROIN IS RAGING IN ONEIDA COUNTY AND THE FEDS NEED TO GET MORE INVOLVED – SENATOR LAUNCHES PUSH TO DESIGNATE COUNTY AS HIGH-INTENSITY DRUG TRAFFICKING AREA, WHICH WILL MEAN ADDITIONAL RESOURCES, TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE, INTELLIGENCE, AND COORDINATION TO HELP DISRUPT DRUG RINGS & BEAT BACK HEROIN EPIDEMIC

Oneida County Has Experienced Explosion of Heroin Use & Drug-Related Crime – Local Heroin-Related Poison Control Calls Have Doubled Since 2011 & There Has Been a 60% Increase in the Number of Heroin-Related Arrests in Utica Since 2013

Schumer Calls on Fed. Office of Drug Control to Designate Oneida County A ‘High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area,’ Which Will Provide Much-Needed Resources to Help County Address Growing Heroin Problem

 

Schumer: We Must Provide Money, Expertise & Intel To Help Oneida County Battle Heroin Scourge

Today, at the Utica Police Department, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged the President's Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to designate Oneida County as a federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), which will help the county address the 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 to tackle this challenge. Schumer cited various facts and figures that demonstrate how widespread the drug trafficking and abuse problem is in Oneida County, including that heroin-related arrests have gone up 60% in Utica since 2013 and local heroin-related calls to poison control centers from Oneida County have doubled since 2011. Schumer urged ONDCP to designate Oneida County as a HIDTA in order to help curb this emerging threat.

“We have been losing too many of our young people to the scourge of drug abuse for far too long. Oneida County in particular has seen a rise in heroin use and heroin-related crime 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 Oneida 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 Oneida County residents from the bane of drug addiction.”

Schumer was joined by Scott McNamara, District Attorney for Oneida County; Rob Maciol, Oneida County Sheriff; Tony Picente, Oneida County Executive; Mark Williams, Chief of the City of Utica Police Department; and several Utica PD officers. 

During his visit, Schumer called on the President’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to establish Oneida County as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). The designation would prioritize funding and other resources for Oneida County, as well as promote greater coordination between local, state, and federal law enforcement personnel in the region.

 

“As the use of heroin and other opiate drugs continues to rise, Oneida County will need to do all it can to weather this growing trend. That means working side by side with our municipal leaders in cities like Utica and Rome to employ proactive policing strategies and effective public awareness campaigns. Senator Schumer's push would be a boon to the idea of getting out ahead of the heroin uptick. As a HIDTA, Oneida County would be amongst other counties across the country with even more federal resources to fight these opiate trends, resources that would greatly support the work we do each and every day,” said Scott McNamara, Oneida District Attorney.

 

“The City of Utica Police Department works around the clock to combat the growing scourge of heroin and opiate use occurring in and around the City of Utica. For Utica, when it comes to drug arrests, heroin is often a factor. The UPD certainly needs all the help it can get to stay a step ahead of these trends, which show as addictions to prescription pills rise, and they become more difficult to acquire, heroin will be there to fill the void, offering an equivalent high at a lower cost. And so, Senator Schumer's work with Oneida County will absolutely help us combat these trends and hopefully provide federal resources that beat heroin use back,” saidMark Williams, Chief of the City of Utica Police Department.

 

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 21 counties in New York that are part of the NY/NJ HIDTA, and Schumer wants Oneida 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 noted that the goal of the federal government’s drug policy is to build safe and healthy communities, and a HIDTA designation for Oneida would help supplement the hard work already being done by Oneida County law enforcement. Schumer said that it is critical for Oneida law enforcement to have as many resources at their disposal as possible in the fight against heroin usage and trafficking. In the City of Utica, heroin-related arrests have gone up 60 percent since 2013 and local heroin-related calls to poison control centers from Oneida County have doubled since 2011. Schumer noted that, at present, local law enforcement advises that roughly 75 percent of the narcotics cases they are currently investigating in Utica are heroin related cases. The Utica City Drug Court estimates that roughly 80 to 90 percent of its current participants are heroin or opiate addicts. According to the Joint Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Abuse, the Oneida County Drug Court has experienced a 25 to 35 percent increase in heroin users over the last two years.

 

Schumer said these startling statistics only begin to scratch the surface when it comes to the heroin scourge across Upstate New York and the uptick in usage and arrests in Oneida County. According to Oneida County officials, opiates are some of the county’s most commonly used illegal drugs. The Insight House, a treatment center in Oneida County, reported in 2013 that, of its 60-day program patients, half are opiate and heroin dependent. The center’s outpatient clinic reported serving approximately 200 people, one third of whom were heroin and opiate users, in 2013. According to the Utica Police Department, in 2013, it made 86 arrests involving heroin. In 2014, the Utica PD made 139 arrests involving heroin; this constitutes an over-60 percent increase in heroin arrests over the last year. Police in the City of Rome, also within Oneida County, report that arrests have skyrocketed there as well. Rome police made 38 arrests for heroin possession in 2014, which was up 20 percent from the prior year. In 2013, Rome police responded to more than 40 heroin overdoses.

 

Schumer also mentioned a number of recent high-profile drug busts in Oneida County and the City of Utica that underscore the need for continued vigilance and additional resources. Schumer said that just in the last month, the Utica area and Oneida County have seen a spike in heroin usage and arrests. In January, two Utica natives were charged with felony drug possession when police raided their home on Neilson Street. In February, a Rome woman was arrested after police found approximately $3,000 worth of heroin inside of her home. Just this past week, a Utica Police Officer revived a person overdosing on heroin on Saratoga Street. Schumer noted that these anecdotes are just a few of many over the course of the last several months and years.

 

Schumer noted his push is aimed at curbing the supply of heroin, but he said it is also important to address the demand for heroin 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 Oneida as a HIDTA county will make them eligible for these types of funding sources.

  

A copy of Senator Schumer’s 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 the epidemic of drug abuse across the country.  Today, I write to ask for help from the HIDTA program.  In my home state of New York, Oneida 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.  In just the last two years, the Oneida County Drug Court has seen approximately a 30% increase in heroin users, while the Utica Police Department has seen over a 60% increase in arrests involving heroin.  The problem has become so bad that heroin related calls to the Upstate Poison Center have surged by 417 percent from 2009 to 2013. Unfortunately, drug addicts have turned to heroin as a cheaper, more accessible alternative than prescription drugs such as oxycodone.  The low price of this dangerous opioid is driving a nationwide increase in abuse, but it has been especially pervasive in Upstate New York.  I ask that the ONDCP designate Oneida County as a HIDTA in order to help curb this emerging dilemma.

 

I understand that Oneida County plans to submit an application to become a HIDTA-designated county this upcoming year, and I urge you to seriously consider their application when they do so.  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 NYC Department of Health, the NYPD, DEA 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, 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.

 

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 continuing our work together.

 

Sincerely,

 

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator  

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