The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy announced Tuesday that Olmsted County would join more than three dozen regions across the country as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.
HIDTA was created by Congress with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 and provides assistance to federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. In addition to Olmsted County's new designation, St. Louis County in Minnesota also joined the North Central HIDTA program. Eleven other counties in 11 states also received the HIDTA designation. According to the news release, 2018 marked the first establishment of a new HIDTA program in 17 years.
"We are excited for this opportunity and the confidence the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has in us with this designation but disappointed at the same time," Sheriff Kevin Torgerson wrote in an email. "Excited because this will allow us to do more of the work we are tasked to do in keeping our communities safer. But saddened because this validates the huge illegal drug addiction and use/abuse problem we have locally. So many families are being torn apart every day by overdose, thefts, burglaries, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, assaults of all kinds and shootings due specifically to the narcotics and illegal prescription drugs in our society."
To be designated as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, an area must be determined to be a significant center of illegal drug production, manufacturing, importation, or distribution and that the law enforcement agencies in that area have committed resources to respond aggressively to the drug trafficking problem in the area.
Areas seeking the designation must also demonstrate that drug-related activities in the area are having a significant harmful impact in the area and in other areas of the country and that a significant increase in allocation of federal resources is necessary to respond adequately to drug-related activities in the area.
“The proven success of our HIDTA program is a direct result of the hard work of those on the front lines of this fight, and the invaluable partnerships they’ve formed with law enforcement groups across the Nation," ONDCP Director Jim Carroll said in a statement. "By expanding our HIDTA program to these critical areas, we are providing more resources to help achieve our mission of keeping more of our family members, friends, and neighbors safe.”
In 2018, HIDTA Program initiatives dismantled nearly 3,000 drug trafficking organizations, removed $16.5 billion in wholesale value of drugs from the street and made nearly 99,000 arrests, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Although the designation specifies Olmsted County, Torgerson said that the federal resources will support the entire region and likely be used by the regional task force.
Rochester Police Capt. Casey Moilanen said the designation gives the department more resources and tools to help them address drug-related problems in the community and this area of the state. The program also means that federal partners recognize that Rochester, Olmsted County and Southeastern Minnesota is a significant corridor and venue for drugs to come into the state and the community
"What it really does, it gives us additional resources and federal partners to better control and limit the amount of drugs that are coming into our community," Moilanen said.