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The High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program: An Overview

The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 and the ONDCP Reauthorization Act of 1998 authorized the Director of The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to designate areas within the United States which exhibit serious drug trafficking problems and harmfully impact other areas of the country as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA). 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 to reduce or eliminate the production, manufacture, transportation, distribution and chronic use of illegal drugs and money laundering.

When designating a new HIDTA, the Director ONDCP consults with the Attorney General, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Homeland Security, heads of the national drug control program agencies, and the appropriate governors and considers the following criteria:

  • The extent to which the area is a significant center of illegal drug production, manufacturing, importation, or distribution;

  • The extent to which State, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies have committed resources to respond to the drug trafficking problem in the area, thereby indicating a determination to respond aggressively to the problem;

  • The extent to which drug-related activities in the area are having a significant harmful impact in the area, and in other areas of the country; and

  • The extent to which a significant increase in allocation of Federal resources is necessary to respond adequately to drug-related activities in the area.

The HIDTA Program helps improve the effectiveness and efficiency of drug control efforts by facilitating cooperation between drug control organizations through resource and information sharing, collocating and implementing joint initiatives. HIDTA funds help federal, state and local law enforcement organizations invest in infrastructure and joint initiatives to confront drug- trafficking organizations. Funds are also used for demand reduction and drug treatment initiatives. The key priorities of the Program are:

• Assess regional drug threats;
   
• Design strategies to focus efforts that combat drug trafficking threats;
   
• Develop and fund initiatives to implement strategies;
   
• Facilitate coordination between federal, state and local efforts; to
   
• Improve the effectiveness and efficiency of drug control efforts to reduce or eliminate the harmful impact of drug trafficking.

Each HIDTA is governed by its own Executive Board comprised of approximately 16 members—eight federal members and eight state or local members. These Boards facilitate interagency drug control efforts to eliminate or reduce drug threats. The Executive Boards ensure threat specific strategies and initiatives are developed, employed, supported and evaluated.

HIDTA-designated counties comprise approximately 14 percent of U.S. counties, they are present in 45 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia. The following 28 areas are designated as HIDTAs:

• 1990:

Houston, Los Angeles, New York/New Jersey, South Florida and Southwest Border (California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas);

     
• 1994:

Washington/Baltimore (Maryland, Virginia and District of Columbia) and Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands;

     
• 1995: Atlanta, Chicago and Philadelphia/Camden;
     
• 1996:

Rocky Mountain (Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming), Gulf Coast (Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi), Lake County (Indiana), Midwest (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota) and Northwest (Washington State);

     
• 1997:

Southeastern Michigan (subsequently, portions of western Michigan) and Northern California;

     
• 1998: Appalachia (Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia), Central Florida, Milwaukee and North Texas (Texas and Oklahoma); and
     
• 1999:

Central Valley California, Hawaii, New England (Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont), Ohio and Oregon.

     
• 2001: North Florida and Nevada.

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