Washington, DC – With drug use and gang violence on the rise and scourging Long Island communities, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today unveiled new efforts to crack down on heroin sales, drug crime, gang activity and establish new prevention and education programs to protect children in communities across New York. Standing with Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, Senator Gillibrand announced that her plan includes legislation that would give law enforcement agencies more resources to fight drug-related crime and combat gang activity, and launch a new anti-heroin media campaign to protect children.
Nearly a quarter of state and local law enforcement agencies in New York identify heroin as the greatest drug threat to their jurisdictions. In fact, the cost of heroin is now actually less than a pack of cigarettes in some parts of New York, and almost 70 percent of New York law enforcement agencies report heroin availability is now at moderate to high levels.
“We have reached a critical tipping point,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “Drug and Gang Violence is ravaging our neighborhoods and threatening the safety of our children. Enough is enough. It’s time for real leadership. All of us most come together to take back our neighborhoods, protect our children, and ensure law enforcement have the resources they need to combat this problem.”
“Any initiative that puts better resources in the hands of law enforcement to combat heroin has my full support,” said Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice. “We have seen too many promising lives cut short and too many families destroyed by this drug. It is time for all of us to say with one voice that we will no longer stand idly and watch heroin kill more of our children.”
“Early last year I announced the formation of a multi-jurisdictional task force to target street-level heroin suppliers and users in Suffolk County,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota. “Since then we have used every weapon available; electronic surveillance, wiretaps and other investigative tools to make dozens of arrests. The financial resources to continue this fight are critical and I commend Senator Gillibrand’s leadership in securing this funding.”
“We applaud Senator Gillibrand for an initiative that provides law enforcement with the tools to fight drugs and gangs while also recognizing the crucial educational component in the fight against violence,” said Commissioner Galen D. Kirkland of the New York State Division of Human Rights. “These initiatives will allow us to expand the Division’s ongoing partnership with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies; going to local schools, delivering the message directly to kids and teachers that gangs and drugs are a dead end.” The Division and FBI agents visited dozens of classes in Hempstead High School earlier this month as part of joint anti-gang efforts.
Senator Gillibrand’s plan will:
Arm Law Enforcement with Ample Resources to Fight Gang Activity, Drug Crime
Senator Gillibrand is announcing support for the Gang Abatement and Prevention Act of 2009. This legislation increases gang prosecution and prevention efforts by authorizing over $1 billion over five years for coordinated federal, state, and local law enforcement efforts. It creates High Intensity Gang Activity Areas (HIGAAs) structured to target areas where gang activity is prevalent. It also increases funding for the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute criminal gang activity.
Additionally, the legislation launches an anti-heroin media campaign to educate the public about the dangers of heroin use, and the drug’s ability to destroy lives, families and entire communities.
Fully Fund the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Program
The HIDTA program gives local law enforcement agencies the resources they need to mount coordinated anti-drug efforts. Last year, Senator Gillibrand worked with Senator Schumer to secure HIDTA funding to fight drug crime in parts of New York.
Senator Gillibrand will now lobby Democratic and Republican colleagues, including Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Susan Collins (R-MA), Chairman and Ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, to fully fund HIDTA in the FY2011 budget – and fight a proposed 12 percent funding cut.
Maintain Funding for Drug Free Communities Grant Program
Senator Gillibrand is also lobbying Senators Durbin and Collins to keep funding for the Drug Free Communities Grant Program for FY2011 – and fight a $9.5 million proposed funding cut for the program that provide grants to support local coalitions of youth, parents, law enforcement, school officials, faith-based organizations, and other community groups that are working to reduce substance abuse among youth.
Restore Funding for Safe and Drug Free Schools
Senator Gillibrand is fighting to restore funding cuts to state grants administered through the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools. Last year, the Obama Administration was forced to eliminate grants for state governments that funded anti-drug programs in local school districts – a total of $295 million annually.
Senator Gillibrand is gathering support from Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee to restore this funding in the FY2011 Appropriations Bill.
Foster Community Strategies to Address Rising Drug Use
Senator Gillibrand is co-sponsoring the Drug Free Communities Enhancement Act of 2009, which authorizes $25 million over five years for the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy to make enhancement grants to an eligible entity to implement community-wide strategies that address emerging local drug issues or local drug crises within the area served by such entity.
Targeted Funding Increases for Law Enforcement in Communities Plagued by Drug Use
Senator Gillibrand is working to boost law enforcement resources for communities where heroin use is particularly rampant. Specifically, Senator Gillibrand is submitting federal appropriations requests to the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee to fund anti-heroin efforts in Suffolk and Nassau Counties on Long Island.
- $1,157,395 for the Nassau County District Attorney for Heroin Enforcement Activity Technology (HEAT). This project provides data-sharing technology to assist Nassau County law enforcement agencies in their fight against heroin, drug trafficking, and other crimes.
- $300,000 for the Suffolk County Police Department’s Gun, Gang & Heroin Suppression Initiative. This federal funding will put more Suffolk County police on the beat in schools and on streets to combat gang, gun and drug-related crime.
- $1,038,700 for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office’s High Intensity Heroin Drug Initiative. This federal funding will support a multi-agency and multi-juristdicational effort to disrupt and combat heroin importation and distribution in Suffolk County.
- $250,000 for the Family Service League – Fresh Start; $250,000; (Suffolk County) This project will create a gang prevention program to deter the entrance of 300 vulnerable youths into gangs. This program will treat the entire family, offering counseling, treatment for mental health, alcohol and drug problems, vocational services, and youth programs including homework help and tutoring. The program will be operated in collaboration with local government, local law enforcement, and school district administration in Brentwood, NY.