08.05.14

SCHUMER: WAR ON HEROIN IS RAGING IN PUTNAM & ROCKLAND COUNTIES AND THE FEDS NEED TO GET INVOLVED SENATOR LAUNCHES PUSH TO DESIGNATE BOTH COUNTIES AS HIGH-INTENSITY DRUG TRAFFICKING AREAS, WHICH WILL MEAN ADDITIONAL RESOURCES, INTELLIGENCE, COORDINATION TO HELP DISRUPT DRUG RINGS & STAMP OUT HEROIN EPIDEMIC

Both Putnam & Rockland Counties Have Experienced Explosion of Heroin Use & Drug-Related Crime There Has Been A 300% Increase in Heroin Arrests in Putnam Over Past Two Years, and The Number of Heroin-Related Deaths Has Quadrupled; Arrests & Deaths Have Skyrocketed in Rockland As Well Schumer Calls on Fed. Office of Drug Control to Designate Putnam & Rockland High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, Which Will Provide Much-Needed Resources to Help Counties Address Growing Heroin Pro

Today, at the Putnam County Sherriff's Department, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged the President's Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to designate both Putnam and Rockland Counties as federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA), which will help both counties address recent and disturbing upticks in heroin usage and drugrelated crime by improving coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as providing equipment, technology and additional resources that the counties need to tackle this challenge. Schumer discussed various facts and figures that demonstrate how widespread the drug trafficking and abuse problem is in Putnam and Rockland Counties. In Putnam County, heroin arrests have increased by 300 percent over the past two years. Heroin related deaths in Putnam County have also increased; in 2011, five people suffered heroinrelated deaths, whereas the number jumped to 20 in 2012. In Rockland County, there was a 15 percent increase in heroin seizures between 2011 and 2012; and between 2012 and 2013, there was a 33 percent increase in heroin arrests. Law enforcement officials in Rockland estimate the number of heroinrelated encounters have doubled over the past several years. Schumer urged ONDCP to designate both of these counties as HIDTAs in order to curb this emerging threat.

 

"We have been losing too many of our young people to the scourge of drug abuse for far too long. Putnam and Rockland Counties in particular have seen a rise in heroin use 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 both of these counties as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas to dispense more resources, in the form of funding, 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 Hudson Valley residents from the bane of drug addiction."

 

Schumer was joined by Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and Putnam County Sheriff Donald Smith, as well as substance abuse advocates including Susan Salomone of Drug Crisis in Our Backyard, who lost her son to a heroin overdose, and Doreen Lockwood of Putnam County Family and Community Services.

 

"Because of its low crime rate, Putnam County loses out on many federal law enforcement funding opportunities," said Donald B. Smith, Putnam County Sheriff. "I thank Senator Schumer for supporting the inclusion of Putnam and Rockland counties in the New York/New Jersey highintensity drug trafficking areas (HIDTA), making us eligible for additional federal funding. This additional funding will help us fight the scourge of drugs in the Hudson Valley, will help protect our children, and will help keep Putnam County a safe place to live, work, and raise a family."

 

"The more we can do to get these killer drugs off our streets, the better. And the sooner, the better. We have lost far too many young people to heroin of late and it is tearing Putnam families apart. I fully support any effort that will expedite High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area designation approval for Putnam," said MaryEllen Odell, Putnam County Executive. 

 

In support of these efforts, the HIDTA program will fund intelligencesharing 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. 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 17 counties in New York that are part of the NY/NJ HIDTA, and Schumer wants Putnam and Rockland Counties 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 Putnam and Rockland would help supplement the hard work already being done by county law enforcement. Schumer said that it is critical for Putnam and Rockland law enforcement to have as many resources at their disposal as possible in the fight against heroin usage and trafficking. In Putnam County, heroin arrests have increased by 300 percent over the past two years. Heroin seizures in Rockland County increased 15 percent between 2011 and 2012 and heroinrelated arrests increased 33 percent between 2012 and 2013. Heroin related deaths in Putnam County have also increased; in 2011, five people suffered heroin related deaths, whereas the number jumped to 20 in 2012.

 

Schumer also mentioned a number of recent highprofile drug busts in both counties that underscore the need for continued vigilance and additional resources. In July 2013, following the deaths of four Putnam youths, authorities in Putnam County arrested 56 people suspected of being involved in various drug rings, and seized roughly $50,000 worth of heroin and hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of other drugs. A recent bust in Rockland County led to the arrests of two men who were found to be in possession of approximately 700 separate doses of heroin. Schumer noted that these anecdotes are just two of many over the course of the last several years.

 

In addition, Schumer referenced his recent request for an emergency $100 million surge of federal antidrug trafficking funding for the HIDTA Program in order to provide more resources to combat the drugs that are being trafficked from Mexico to New York City, and then to areas of the Hudson Valley like Putnam and Rockland Counties. Schumer's call followed a recent  New York Times story that noted that the amount of heroin seized thus far in 2014 already surpasses heroin seizures in any year since 1991, as well as statistics that show 35 percent of heroin seized by the DEA since October 2013 occurred in New York State.

 

A copy of Senator Schumer's letters to the ONDCP on behalf of both counties 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 run by the ONDCP has been highly successful combating abusive outbreaks of a variety of dangerous drugs.  Today, I write to ask for help from the HIDTA program.  In my home state of New York, Rockland 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 Rockland County in 2012, local law enforcement officials seized prescription drugs and/or heroin on 147 different occasions. Rockland's close proximity to New York City also makes it extremely susceptible to drug trafficking; in January 2013, 28 people in Rockland County were charged for various drug offenses, as the result of an undercover investigation into drug trafficking across the county. Unfortunately, drug addicts have turned to heroin as a cheaper, more accessible alternative than prescription drugs such as oxycodone. I ask that the ONDCP designate Rockland County as a HIDTA in order to help curb this emerging dilemma.

 

I understand that Rockland County has submitted an application to become a HIDTAdesignated 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 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 hearing from you soon.

 

Sincerely,

 

Charles E. Schumer

U.S. Senator

 



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