June 25, 2009

Schumer, Gillibrand, McHugh Succesfully Help Secure Increased Resources to Combat Drug Related Crime in Northern New York

After Steadfast Effort to Secure Northern Border, Schumer, Gillibrand, McHugh Help Secure HIDTA Designation for Clinton, Franklin and St. Lawrence counties

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative John D. McHugh today announced that they have successfully secured more federal resources to combat drug smuggling networks throughout New York and beyond. Schumer, Gillibrand and McHugh have worked diligently in support of an application by the the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program to expand the designation to four of the North Country counties. 

The approval of the application follows several actions taken by the Senators and Congressman in support of the application.  At the time the application was filed, Schumer, McHugh, and then-Senator Clinton wrote the White House, stressing their strong support.  Schumer questioned Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director R. Gil Kerlikowske about the matter both in a private meeting, and publicly at Kerlikowske's Senate confirmation hearing.  After Kerlikowske's confirmation, Schumer, Gillibrand, and McHugh wrote him, again in support of the application, also sending a similar letter at that time to Attorney General Eric Holder.  The three also introduced legislation earlier this spring requiring that the counties be added.

Today the legislators announced that, due in part to their efforts, three of the four counties - Clinton, Franklin and St. Lawrence - have been added to the HIDTA program. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Congressman McHugh said that they would continue their efforts to secure designation for the fourth applicant, Jefferson County.

"This has been a long, tough fight but I am so glad that we have finally gotten this application approved. I was proud to be a part of expanding HIDTA in 2007, and I'm proud to join Senator Gillibrand and Congressman McHugh in doing it again.  We can already see the benefits of having this tough, effective, statewide crime fighting network in place.  Now that we have successfully secured this designation for three out of the four counties along the Northern Border, we will go right back and make sure we get it for Jefferson County," said Senator Schumer.

"There is nothing more important than the security of our communities," said Senator Gillibrand. "Last month in the North Country, I discussed with local law enforcement the importance of becoming a HIDTA to deliver additional tools and resources to keep our streets secure. I'm proud that together with Senator Schumer and Congressman McHugh, we were able to provide the resources we need on the ground to keep Northern New York communities safe and drug-free. I will continue working to keep our families safe."

"I am extremely pleased that ONDCP Director Kerlikowske designated Clinton, Franklin, and St. Lawrence counties as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTAs) and incorporated them into the NY/NJ HIDTA.  Cross-border drug trafficking poses a significant threat to our nation and this is one of the best and most immediate things we can do to effectively meet that threat. Our local leaders and law enforcement are doing tremendous work but need the additional federal resources this designation will provide to fully address this situation. I was pleased to work with Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and former Senator Clinton to secure this designation," Congressman McHugh said.

"The Clinton County District Attorney's office is pleased to have received confirmation that Clinton, Franklin and St. Lawrence Counties have been designated as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas and incorporated into the New York / New Jersey HIDTA.    Interstate 87 is one of the main routes of travel of drug traffickers between Montreal Quebec and New York City.    The HIDTA designation along with the assets and law enforcement presence provided will better assist our local law enforcement agencies in the fight against the transportation of narcotics and marihuana through Clinton County.     As the elected District Attorney for Clinton County, I applaud and congratulate Senator Schumer, Gillibrand and Congressman McHugh for their efforts and support of this desperately needed designation," said Clinton County District Attorney, Andrew J. Wylie.

"I am extremely grateful to Congressman McHugh and Senator Schumer for their support of our joint application for inclusion in the New York/New Jersey HIDTA. The unique geography of New York's northern border has long made it a favored drug smuggling location.  Our inclusion in the HIDTA will afford us greater opportunities to work collaboratively with the federal government and across county lines to stem the flow of illegal drugs to and through our communities," said St. Lawrence County District Attorney Nicole M. Duvé.

"This is great news for Franklin County, New York State, and our nation.  The designation of Franklin, Clinton, and St. Lawrence counties will significantly enhance our ability to combat cross-border drug trafficking.  Additionally, it will help us as we work to protect our nation from terrorism.  This would not have happened without Congressman McHugh and Senator Schumer's tremendous/strong leadership and persistence and I cannot thank them enough for their efforts on our behalf.  Likewise, I appreciate the support Senators Gillibrand and Clinton provided to this effort," said Franklin County DA Derek Champagne.

"We are thrilled and grateful that Director Kerlikowske has expanded the New York/New Jersey HIDTA to include Clinton, Franklin and St. Lawrence counties on the northern border of New York State.  The mission of the NY/NJ HIDTA is to invest federal funds in effective drug enforcement partnerships.  This expansion provides a huge opportunity to dramatically improve our law enforcement efforts on our border, which will benefit not only New Yorkers but people throughout the northeast region from the dangers associated with drug smuggling and money laundering.  We are extremely appeciative for the outstanding leadership and support of Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, former Senator Clinton and Congressman McHugh, without whom this critically important expansion would not have been possible," said NY/NJ HIDTA Director Chauncey Parker

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.  Since 1990, 28 regions in the United States, comprising 14% of U.S. counties, have been designated as HIDTAs and are eligible to receive targeted funding through the program.  A HIDTA is regarded as a coordinating umbrella for federal, state and local agencies.  Once ONDCP, in consultation with a number of government officials such as the Attorney General, designates a region as a HIDTA, the region can receive federal money to help local law enforcement clamp down on illegal drugs transported through those counties.  The HIDTA's Executive Board, based in New York City, then allocates funding in order to fight drug trafficking most effectively. 

The newly acquired HIDTA designation for Clinton, Franklin and St. Lawrence Counties will 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.

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.  And the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation straddles the United States/Canada border in Franklin County. 

In 2007, 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.  Funding from that expansion of HIDTA was recently used to hire two experienced drug intelligence officers to help coordinate statewide anti-trafficking efforts. 

Today, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, and Congressman McHugh announced that Clinton, Franklin and St. Lawrence Counties have been given a New Jersey/New York HIDTA designation.

The addition of the Clinton, Franklin and St. Lawrence Counties will play a critical role in reducing the flow of narcotics throughout New York, and into the rest of the United States.