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Letter to John P. Walters. Director, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy

Letter

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SCHUMER, CLINTON, MCHUGH RATCHET UP SUPPORT FOR DRUG TRAFFICKING DESIGNATION IN NORTH COUNTRY COUNTIES AS APPLICATION IS SUBMITTED

NY/NJ High Intensity Drug Trafficking Program Applied This Week to Expand its Region to Clinton, Franklin, Jefferson, St. Lawrence Counties

In September, Schumer, Clinton, McHugh Introduced Legislation That Would Increase Federal Resources to Disrupt and Dismantle Drug Trafficking in Region

To Help Law Enforcement Battle Drug Trafficking Statewide, Legislators Today Urged Office of National Drug Control Policy to Accept NY/NJ Application - Expand HIDTA

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Representative John D. McHugh today continued their push to bring more federal resources to combat the drug smuggling networks in Clinton, Franklin, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties. In support of the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program's application today to expand the designation to the four North Country counties, the legislators personally urged the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to accept the application. In September, the three legislators introduced legislation in Congress that would expand the designation.

A HIDTA designation would provide much-needed federal resources to increase communication between state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies so that they can disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking and money laundering organizations in the region.

Smugglers increasingly take advantage of the region's transportation networks to move Canadian hydroponic marijuana into the United States through the four counties. The marijuana is then transported downstate to Syracuse and Albany, where it is sold to drug traffickers, often from New York City, who further distribute it throughout the nation. Cocaine and heroin also pose significant threats to the New York/New Jersey HIDTA region. The legislation is intended to disrupt these trafficking networks.

"We have to fight fire with fire when combating drug trafficking. We must make sure that local law enforcement has the resources it needs and that the state, locals and feds are all on the same page," Schumer said. "We have seen good results from this designation in other counties across New York State, and we can repeat those results in the four northern border counties. We are urging the ONDCP with letters and legislation to make sure the North Country can get the resources to fight the drug smuggling pipeline that runs right through them."

"It is imperative that we provide our local law enforcement officials with the tools and resources they need to effectively combat the drug traffickers that are poisoning our North Country communities," said Senator Clinton. "Our law enforcement experts have done a valiant job of fighting this battle with the means at their disposal, but it is clear that additional resources are needed to stem the drug trade in Clinton, Franklin, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties. That is why it is so important to secure these additional federal resources by expanding New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program's designation to the four North Country counties."

"Today's application filing is a critical step forward in our nation's effort to combat cross-border drug trafficking, particularly here in the North Country. As a lifelong resident of Northern New York, I know how serious the threat posed by cross-border drug trafficking is to our local area. The incorporation of Clinton, Franklin, Jefferson, and St. Lawrence Counties into the NY/NJ HIDTA will provide additional federal resources to help federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement work together to address this situation," McHugh said.

The North Country's geographic attributes and transportation infrastructure create conditions conducive for drug smuggling. Clinton, Franklin, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties feature 16 points of entry to the United States, three of which are within the top ten most used points of entry on the United States northern border. In addition, the counties are home to 17 airports, including international airports in Watertown, Plattsburgh, Ogdensburg, and Massena. Three of the counties border the St. Lawrence River, which provides international shipping access to much of the United States via the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System. In addition, the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation straddles the United States/Canada border in Franklin County.

The mission of the HIDTA program is to disrupt the market for illegal drugs in the United States by assisting federal, state, and local law enforcement entities to dismantle and disrupt drug trafficking organizations - with an emphasis on drug trafficking regions that have harmful effects on other parts of the United States.

"The HIDTA program is a unique program that combines local, federal and state law enforcement resources in order to keep our communities safe from perils associated with drug trafficking and related crimes. The Expansion of the NY/NJ HIDTA program to include the northern border counties of New York State is a fundamental next step in our efforts and could not come at a more critical moment. These four counties are literally on the front lines of the efforts by the NY/NJ HIDTA and our nation to combat drug smuggling, drug trafficking, and other serious crimes. We are extremely grateful for the leadership of Senator Schumer, Senator Clinton and Congressman McHugh and their joint efforts to try to expand the HIDTA partnership and deliver critical crime fighting resources to our northern border," said Chauncey Parker, Director of the New York/New Jersey HIDTA

Senators Schumer and Clinton, and Congressman McHugh today sent a personal letter to John D. Walters, Director of ONDCP, the office that oversees the HIDTA program, urging him to accept the New Jersey/New York HIDTA's application to expand the designation to four North Country counties - Clinton, Franklin, Jefferson and St. Lawrence.

In the letter, the legislators wrote, "The addition of the Clinton, Franklin, Jefferson, and St. Lawrence Counties would play a critical role in reducing the flow of narcotics throughout New York, and into the rest of the United States - a goal on which we can all agree."

The New York/New Jersey HIDTA program, with its main offices in Manhattan, currently encompasses 17 counties located throughout New York and northeastern New Jersey. The New York portion of the region consists of the five boroughs of New York City (Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island), the two outer counties of Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk), Westchester County, and four upstate counties that were added in 2007: Albany, Erie, Monroe, and Onondaga. The New Jersey portion consists of Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Passaic, and Union Counties. The New York/New Jersey HIDTA is led by an Executive Board consisting of 24 federal, state, and local law enforcement leaders, and has partnerships with over 100 federal, state, local, and non-government agencies within the New York metropolitan area and beyond.

A HIDTA is regarded as a coordinating umbrella for federal, state and local agencies. The goal of the HIDTA program is to enhance integration and invest in partnerships between federal, state, and local agencies, while eliminating unnecessary overlap and duplication of efforts. Once ONDCP designates a region as a HIDTA, it can receive federal money to help local law enforcement clamp down on illegal drugs transported through those counties. The Executive Board then allocate funding in order to fight drug trafficking most effectively.

Senator Schumer was a strong supporter of expanding the existing HIDTA to include Onondaga, Albany, Erie and Monroe Counties, and wrote at the time to ONDCP, urging action. The addition of the four counties in 2007 has played a significant role in facilitating communication between state, local and federal law enforcement agencies, and in disrupting and dismantling drug trafficking and money laundering organizations in the region. Already, HIDTA funds have been used to hire full-time drug intelligence officers, and money has been set aside for state, local, and federal task forces.

Since 1990, 28 regions in the United States, comprising 14% of U.S. counties, have been designated as HIDTAs.

See below for a full copy of the letter sent:

October 31, 2008

John P. Walters. Director
White House Office
Office of National Drug Control Policy
750 17th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20503

Dear Director Walters:

We write in strong support of the application submitted today by the New York/New Jersey HIDTA, seeking expansion of the HIDTA to include New York's four northern border counties - Clinton, Franklin, Jefferson, and St. Lawrence.

It is without question that such an expansion would be warranted. The region's geographic attributes and transportation infrastructure create conditions conducive for drug smuggling. These four counties feature 16 points of entry to the United States, three of which are within the top ten most used points of entry on the United States northern border. In addition, the counties are home to 17 airports, including international airports in Watertown, Plattsburgh, Ogdensburg, and Massena. Three of the counties border the St. Lawrence River, which provides international shipping access to much of the United States via the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System. In addition, the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation straddles the United States/Canada border in Franklin County.

As described in the application, smugglers increasingly take advantage of the region's transportation networks to move Canadian hydroponic marijuana into the United States through the four counties. The marijuana is then transported downstate to Syracuse and Albany, where it is sold to drug traffickers, often from New York City, who further distribute it throughout the nation.

As you know, in 2007, the HIDTA was expanded to include the counties - Onondaga and Albany - in which Syracuse and Albany are located. In addition, Erie and Monroe, two border counties, were added at that time. The addition of the four counties in 2007 has played a significant role in facilitating communication between state, local and federal law enforcement agencies, and in disrupting and dismantling drug trafficking and money laundering organizations in the region. The addition of the Clinton, Franklin, Jefferson, and St. Lawrence Counties would play a critical role in reducing the flow of narcotics throughout New York, and into the rest of the United States - a goal on which we can all agree.

We greatly appreciate your assistance to New York State and your nationwide leadership in the war on drugs. We look forward to seeing these counties added to the HIDTA, and to working together with you on future ONDCP endeavors.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator

Hillary Rodham Clinton
United States Senator

John M. McHugh
United States Representative


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