08.12.15

SCHUMER: WAR ON HEROIN/OPIOIDS CONTINUES TO RAGE IN ULSTER COUNTY & THE FEDS NEED TO FINALLY GET INVOLVED; SENATOR RELAUNCHES PUSH TO DESIGNATE COUNTY AS “HIGH-INTENSITY DRUG TRAFFICKING AREA,” WHICH WILL MEAN ADDITIONAL RESOURCES, INTELLIGENCE, COORDINATION TO HELP DISRUPT DRUG RINGS & REVERSE HEROIN EPIDEMIC

Ulster County, Like The Rest Of The Hudson Valley, Has Experienced Explosion Of Heroin Use & An Increase in Drug-Related Crime; There Has Been A Significant Increase In Heroin Arrests In Ulster Since Last Year, And The Number Of Heroin-Related Deaths Has Quadrupled

Federal HIDTA Anti-Drug Designation Will Finally Provide Much-Needed Resources and Technical Assistance To Help Ulster County Better Fight Its Growing Heroin Problem 

Schumer: Ulster County Must Become a HIDTA to Access Vital Federal Anti-Drug Resources and Expertise

Standing at the Ulster County Law Enforcement Center, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the President’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to designate Ulster County a federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), which will 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. Despite the best efforts of law enforcement officials and County officials, dangerous drugs have found the way into communities throughout Ulster County and the entire Hudson Valley. Schumer explained that Ulster County applied for HIDTA designation last year and was rejected, but is submitting an improved application this year in the face of the growing heroin and opioid drug use problem in the area. As a result, Schumer renewed his push to have Ulster County receive this crucial designation that will allow it to curb this emerging threat by utilizing increased federal resources and technology. Schumer discussed various facts and figures that demonstrate how widespread the drug trafficking and abuse problem is in Ulster County, including the fact that heroin seizures in Ulster County tripled between 2007 and 2014, and drug-related arrests have increased this year compared to last. Therefore, Schumer urged ONDCP to designate Ulster County as a HIDTA in order to help it stem this tide of drug-related crime. Ulster has also experienced tremendous postive growth in areas like tourism, economic development, job creation and quality of life and elected officials from all levels of government must come together to address this dangerous, life threatening problem.

“We have been losing too many of our young people to the scourge of heroin and drug abuse for far too long. Ulster County in particular has seen a rise in heroin use and heroin-related crime that is beyond alarming. That is why I am calling on the feds to designate Ulster County a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which will provide technical expertise, more law enforcement personnel and the potential for more funding to combat heroin use and tackle this challenge head-on,” said Schumer. “More must be done to curtail the spike in heroin use and prevent more Ulster County residents from the bane of drug addiction and crime.”

Schumer was joined by Ulster County Executive Michael Hein and Ulster County Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum.

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 that will allow it to stem this emerging trend by utilizing the increased federal resources and technology that are provided through the HIDTA program. Schumer said this HIDTA designation would prioritize funding and other 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 would also 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.

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 Ulster 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. Last year, Putnam, Dutchess and Rockland Counties applied for and received HIDTA designation, joining Westchester and Orange and HIDTA counties in the Hudson Valley. Without regional designations, the Hudson Valley as a whole could lose out on valuable information sharing activities. Schumer noted that this problem is not unique to Ulster County, and addressed the problem as a regional and state-wide trend which must be addressed.

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 County would help supplement the hard work already being done by county law enforcement. Schumer said that it is critical for Ulster County law enforcement to have as many resources at their disposal as possible in the fight against heroin usage and trafficking. Heroin seizures in Ulster County tripled between 2007 and 2014, and, specifically, between March 2007 and February 2015, the Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team (URGENT) seized 16,646 decks of heroin. According to the URGENT, while there were 1,722 decks of heroin seized in 2014 alone, there have already been 4,865 decks of heroin seized between January and July of this year. In addition, Schumer said that heroin arrests in Ulster County have increased by 64 percent between 2014 and 2015, despite the fact that 2015 is merely halfway through. Schumer said these trends are alarming and must be stymied.

Schumer also cited a recent, 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.

In addition, Schumer referenced his recent request for an emergency $100 million surge of federal anti-drug 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 Ulster County. Schumer’s initial call followed a New York Times story that noted that the amount of heroin seized in 2014 already surpassed heroin seizures in any year since 1991.

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 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.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

U.S. Senator

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