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Schumer: Heroin problem raging in Niagara County

"Feds need to get more involved"
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Posted at 1:36 PM, Sep 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-13 13:36:24-04

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer has launched a new push to designate Niagara County as a high-intensity drug trafficking area.

Schumer is calling on the Office of Drug Control to make the designation so that Niagara County will receive resources to address the growing drug problem.

“We have been losing too many of our young people to the scourge of drug abuse for far too long. Niagara County in particular has seen a rise in crime and heroin-related deaths that is beyond alarming. The numbers have jumped, especially among kids aged 18 to 24, and that’s a trend we need to reverse now,” said Senator Schumer. 

Senator Schumer says the drug epidemic has become especially troublesome in Niagara, with increased reports of fatal opioid-involved overdoses and drug trafficking operations.

According to the Niagara County Department of Health, during the 2015 federal investigation, Operation Lockjaw, law enforcement authorities seized over eight kilograms of fentanyl – an amount which represents one of the largest seizures of fentanyl ever in the U.S.

Senator Schumer sent the following letter to the ONDCP:

Dear Director Botticelli,
 
Thank you for your commitment to combatting drug outbreaks across the nation and your work with the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program. Today, I write to express my strong support for the inclusion of Niagara County as a HIDTA county.
 
Since its creation in 1988, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has been instrumental in the fight against drug abuse across our nation. In recent years, these efforts have extended to stemming the uptick of prescription and heroin drug abuse – an epidemic ravaging communities throughout the state of New York. The HIDTA program has been critical to New York’s efforts in coordinating law enforcement and public health officials operating in areas that are determined critical drug trafficking regions.
 
In Niagara County, the drug epidemic has become especially troublesome, with increased reports of both drug trafficking operations and fatal opioid-involved overdoses. In fact, during the 2015 federal investigation, Operation Lockjaw, law enforcement authorities seized over eight kilograms of fentanyl – an amount which represents one of the largest seizures of fentanyl ever in the U.S. The epidemic also presents issues for public health officials, who have seen opioid overdose-related emergency room (ER) visits, triple from 48 in 2011 to 186 in 2015. When compared to other areas in NYS, the rate of ER admissions in Niagara County was among the highest 25 counties in the state. Furthermore, law enforcement reports that levels of violent crime and property crime likely associated with the growing heroin market continues to climb.
 
Last month, Niagara County submitted an application to become a HIDTA designated county. Niagara County plans to use the funding to support a crime analyst position and a Drug Intelligence Officer (DIO) position.  The support from these positions will enable them to better analyze public health and safety data associated with emerging drug threats, and gather key drug intelligence information. By bolstering their information sharing, the DIO will be able to provide significant support to drug investigations throughout the entire county.
 
Given the enormous benefits HIDTA status will provide to Niagara County, I urge you to strongly consider its application, and designate Niagara County as a HIDTA.  Again, thank you for your dedicated efforts to keeping the citizens of New York and the United States safe, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.