Niagara Co. seeking special designation to fight drug trafficking

Posted at 7:09 PM, Oct 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-03 19:19:36-04

Niagara County is still waiting to hear whether it will be approved by the federal government to be designated as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) by the President's Office of National Drug Control Policy.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer and other members of the WNY congressional delegation are pushing for the designation so Niagara County can receive much-needed resources to help fight the growing problem of drug trafficking.

Erie County is already designated as a HIDTA county.

The Niagara County problem is stemming from the opioid epidemic that is pushing people who get addicted to other illegal narcotics especially heroin.

According to Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour, the application for the designation has been accepted and the county is hoping, once approved, to get extra personnel to allow better intelligence and strategy sharing with other federal, state and local agencies.

Sheriff Voutour said a big part of the drug trafficking problem is Niagara County's high rate of pain killers that are prescribed which end up fueling addictions.

Voutour supplied the following information to illustrate the problem:

-In 2015, Niagara County ranked 4th out of 62 counties per capita for hydrocodone and oxycodone prescriptions filled by residents. 

-The Niagara County Drug Task Force is aware of 73 Narcan saves in the first half of 2016.

-For every 10,000 births, 217 are addicted to opioids in Niagara County.

-The Sheriffs' Office investigated 20 Meth labs between 2010 and 2014; 9 in 2015 and 5 so far in  2016.

The Sheriff said he also believes Niagara County should take some lessons from Erie County on how it is dealing with issues of education, treatment and information sharing.

7 Eyewitness News reporter Ed Reilly takes a closer look at the problem in his reports.