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Schumer, Clinton, McHugh Introduce Legislation to Combat Drug Trafficking in the North Country

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Schumer, Clinton Introduce Senate Legislation, McHugh Introduces House Legislation That Would Increase Federal Resources to Disrupt and Dismantle Drug Trafficking in Region

Addition of Four Northern Border Counties Will Help Law Enforcement to Battle Trafficking Statewide

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton and Representative John D. McHugh today urged more federal resources to combat the drug smuggling networks in Clinton, Franklin, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties. Schumer and Clinton, in the Senate, and McHugh, in the House of Representatives, have introduced legislation requiring that the four counties be given a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) 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. Otherwise, cocaine and heroin pose significant threats to the New York/New Jersey HIDTA region. The legislation is intended to disrupt this trafficking.

"The two best ways to bust up drug trafficking are to beef up resources to law enforcement and make sure the states, locals, and feds are all on the same page. Clinton, Franklin, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties work around the clock to combat the drug smuggling pipeline that runs right through them but they can only do as much as their resources allow," Schumer said. "I was a huge proponent of adding Albany, Erie, Monroe, and Onondaga to the HIDTA in 2007, and we're already seeing results. Adding the four northern border counties will keep that progress up."

"Police and law enforcement officials in Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Franklin, and Clinton counties are working tirelessly to combat drug trafficking but we must do more to ensure that they have the resources to get the job done," said Senator Clinton. "Increasing the coordination between federal, state, and local agencies by adding our North Country counties to the HIDTA program, is key to cracking down on the criminals who are smuggling drugs into our State and poisoning our communities."

"Clinton, Franklin, Jefferson, and St. Lawrence counties are literally on the front lines of our nation's efforts to combat drug trafficking, something I know well as a lifelong resident of Northern New York. The vulnerabilities that exist along the northern border are readily apparent and cross-border drug trafficking poses a very serious threat to our local area and, ultimately, throughout the country. Incorporating these four counties into the NY/NJ HIDTA is one of the best and most immediate things we can do to effectively meet that threat," said McHugh. "Our local leaders and law enforcement are doing tremendous work combating the drug trafficking coming through our counties. Senators Schumer and Clinton and I will continue in our efforts to help them be even more effective by working together to secure this designation and the accompanying additional federal resources."

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 legislation introduced today will support an expected application this month from the New Jersey/New York HIDTA to ONDCP to include the four North Country counties in the HIDTA program.

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 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.

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