Sen. Schumer opposes White House attempts to cut resources for St. Lawrence County to fight trafficking of heroin, other drugs
Monday, May 15, 2017 - 9:15 am

Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat, is trying to stop the president from cutting the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, which gives federal money to St. Lawrence and other counties to fight heroin and other drugs.

Schumer on May 8 announced a “major push” to prevent proposed cuts to the program, administered through the Office of National Drug Policy Control.

St. Lawrence, Franklin and Jefferson counties benefit from the program. A map showing all HIDTA counties in the country is at goo.gl/Gt58P9.

Schumer said the HIDTA program helps counties address recent 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 Upstate New York,” according to Schumer’s office. “Schumer has long championed the effort to expand the HIDTA program throughout Upstate New York.

“Most recently in the just passed federal spending bill, Schumer helped secure a $4 million increase to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Program, which brings the entire pot to $254 million.”

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 24 counties in New York that are part of the NY/NJ HIDTA. HIDTA Drug Intelligence Officers 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.

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. Many in upstate New York are already HIDTA-designated counties, meaning that they receive federal resources to combat drug trafficking and sales. The purpose of HIDTA is to reduce drug trafficking and production in the United States, Schumer said.

More about President Donald Trump’s plans to gut the Office of Drug Policy Control is at goo.gl/pDjxjy.

“The President’s counter-productive proposal to gut the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is the most destructive proposal yet to undermine the fight against the opioid and heroin epidemic in Upstate New York,” Schumer said in a prepared statement. “Any proposal to eliminate funding for programs, like the successful and vital High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), which is instrumental in aiding local enforcement to prevent drug trafficking in many communities, would effectively make our neighborhoods less safe. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in fighting this backwards proposal and in urging the administration to reverse course on cutting support for High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas that are so important Upstate and to reject this proposal immediately.”

Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick, who acted as a special prosecutor in the high-profile murder trial of Oral “Nick” Hillary, is quoted as supporting the senator’s efforts in a release from Schumer’s office.

"HIDTA has been a crucial component in our battle against drug trafficking in New York State. Central and Upstate New York, like the rest of the country, is being ravaged by heroin, synthetic drugs, cocaine and methamphetamine. Syracuse sits at the cross roads of 2 interstate highways which are major routes that dealers use to distribute their poison from New York City to the rest of the state, up to the Canadian border and west to Buffalo. With state and local law enforcement funding decreasing every year, HIDTA provides us with the resources, manpower and intelligence to put a significant dent in this narcotics traffic. It is hard to imagine the adverse impact its elimination would have on the entire state of New York, especially upstate,” Fitzpatrick said.

“I have worked long and hard – at the request of many local Upstate police departments and mayors – to extend their participation in High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area programs. They help local communities coordinate with federal entities to fight the opioid and heroin drug scourge. Cutting this program takes the legs out of our anti-drug interdiction efforts and makes absolutely no sense,” Schumer said in the release. “In the face of the very scary wave of opioid and heroin drugs flooding our communities, we should be doubling down on law enforcement, treatment and prevention programs, not cutting them.”