Leader Blues

Saturday, February 23, 2008

TOP STORY > > County gets drug grant

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

John P. Walters, director of National Drug Control Policy, on Wednesday designated Pulaski, Jefferson, Benton and Washington counties as new counties in the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, making them eligible for money and assistance to help control trafficking.

“This is an early step in the process,” said Pulaski County Sheriff Doc Holladay. “We’re very excited that we’ve been designated.”

He said his office would meet with local police departments to see what else they can do to stop drug trafficking.

“We’ve been working toward this for a long while,” Holladay said. “Now we’re on the road, so we’re very pleased.”

Holladay said it was too early to know what the financial implications of the designation were and what changes and improvements would be implemented.

“The designation of Benton, Jefferson, Pulaski and Washington counties into the Gulf Coast HIDTA will support the important work already being done at the state and local levels in Arkansas,” said Walters. “Working in collaboration with law enforcement professionals on the frontlines of our streets, the HIDTA program enhances operational capabilities, and its expansion will help disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations in Arkansas and across the nation.”

Law enforcement officials in those counties will use the new Federal resources to coordinate investigations, and interdiction efforts against Mexican methamphetamine trafficking in Arkansas, as well as the abundance of clandestine methamphetamine laboratories.

“While our local and state law enforcement have done an exemplary job keeping our families and communities safe, the fact is that Arkansas’s geographic location makes it a battleground in our nation’s fight against illegal drugs,” said Sen. Blanche Lincoln.

“We have been working for a long time for this HIDTA designation, and I’m pleased that our state will receive the critical federal resources, technology, and manpower needed to fight the drug problem in Arkansas more effectively.”

“I’m pleased our persistence to receive this designation has paid off,” said Sen. Mark Pryor. “As a result, these counties will receive much-needed firepower to combat drug activities, including more manpower, coordination and federal dollars to keep our communities safe.”

“This additional funding is an invaluable resource for central Arkansas law enforcement agencies,” said Cong. Vic Snyder. “This support will improve the important and sometimes dangerous coordinated efforts of those who dedicate their lives to eradicating drug trafficking in our state.”

The 26 new HIDTA counties are located in Arkansas, California, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas. The newly designated HIDTA counties have demonstrated that: their location is a significant center of illegal drug production, manufacturing, importation, or distribution, according to Walters.

The HIDTA program provides additional federal resources to those areas to help eliminate or reduce drug trafficking and its harmful consequences. Law enforcement organizations within HIDTAs assess drug trafficking problems and design specific initiatives and strategies to reduce or eliminate the production, manufacture, transportation, distribution and chronic use of illegal drugs and money laundering.

About 14 percent of all U.S. counties are now designated.