Chapter 5. Disrupt Domestic Drug Trafficking and Production

Chapter Table of Contents

Introduction

Drug trafficking organizations, associated criminal organizations, and the activity that fuels them—the transport and distribution of illicit drugs throughout the Nation—pose a persistent and dangerous threat to the United States. These organizations, often operating in multiple countries, are present in every region of the Nation, from the Southwest to the Northern border. Their criminal enterprises involve producing illicit drugs on public and private lands, trafficking narcotics, smuggling bulk cash beyond our borders, acquiring and shipping weapons via our highways and postal facilities, diverting precursor chemicals for illicit drug manufacture and unlawfully distributing both illegal and diverted legaldrugs in our communities. The negative effects of the drug trade pose tremendous challenges, and threaten the well-being of citizens and the fabric of institutions at every level.

The Administration’s response recognizes the importance of partnering with other nations that are invested in disrupting major transnational drug networks and criminal organizations. At the same time, domestic law enforcement at the Federal, state, local, and tribal levels must continue to share information and align resources to identify and disrupt drug trafficking operations in the United States, including the diversion of prescription drugs and the diversion of precursor chemicals used to manufacture illicit controlled substances. This effort requires a wide array of intelligence gathering, investigation, enforcement operations, and prosecutions, involving a diverse and sophisticated law enforcement infrastructure.

ONDCP is working closely with interagency partners to implement the forthcoming Strategy on Transnational Organized Crime, which will address the growing convergence between drug trafficking and other organized criminal activities, as well as other relevant strategies focused on domestic and international trafficking. These strategies complement the initiatives highlighted in this Strategy.

Principle 1. Federal Enforcement Initiatives Must be Coordinated with State, Local, and Tribal Partners

Federal policymakers have taken a number of steps to appropriately align Federal drug enforcement with the efforts of state, local, and tribal partners. (Action Item 5.1A)

Federal, State, and Local Interagency Task Forces

The HIDTA program is at the forefront of efforts to target and disrupt drug trafficking networks. Last year, there were 670 HIDTA-funded task forces and strategic initiatives staffed by more than 8,700 Federal agents and analysts and nearly 17,000 state, local, and tribal law enforcement officers, analysts, and other representatives. In 2010, the HIDTA program assisted with the disruption or dismantlement of more than 1,900 drug trafficking organizations, trained more than 25,000 law enforcement and analytical personnel to further improve investigative and enforcement practices, provided analytical support for more than 36,000 cases, and seized drugs valued at nearly $12 billion. HIDTAs provide a mechanism for every level of law enforcement to share resources, information, and strategies.

A New Approach to Drug Threat Assessment

Patterns of illegal drug production, distribution, and consumption change over time and vary widely across and within different regions of the United States. Each year, HIDTAs are required to conduct an assessment of emerging drug threats in their areas and develop strategies to address those specific threats. The New York/New Jersey (NY/NJ) HIDTA has identified a need to better evaluate and respond to trends in illegal drug use in its 23 counties. A more detailed understanding of the number of chronic drug users, their geographic distribution, demographic characteristics, and patterns of use is needed, as is timely reporting and analysis of drug-related deaths, injuries, and admissions to drug treatment at the state and municipal levels.

To this end, the NY/NJ HIDTA has partnered with state and municipal public health and law enforcement agencies to collect and monitor data on a comprehensive set of drug-use indicators. This effort has two major objectives:

  • Develop an in-depth assessment of trends in illegal drug use for each HIDTA county to better inform local drug control policy and improve resource allocation for state and local public health and law enforcement agencies.
  • Identify new and emerging patterns in drug consumption.

A key component of this effort has been the forging of new and productive partnerships with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Use Prevention, Care and Treatment and the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. Beginning in 2009, the NY/NJ HIDTA hosted a series of meetings with officials from both agencies, as well as with law enforcement representatives, to explore sharing information on illegal drug use, drug-related crime and drug treatment in the 16 New York HIDTA counties.

In addition, HIDTA-funded analysts and drug intelligence officers in several New York counties, particularly Westchester and Nassau, have independently developed strong working relationships with county medical examiners, hospital administrators, substance abuse treatment providers, and others in the public health and education communities. The NY/NJ HIDTA has also fostered and drawn upon partnerships between key public health agencies and law enforcement in New Jersey.

Through these efforts, new opportunities for collaboration on assessing trends in drug use have emerged. In August 2009, the NY/NJ HIDTA called upon the expertise and analyses of this expanding network of partners to fulfill an ONDCP request for a county-by-county analysis of trends in heroin trafficking and use. In sum, these partnerships are enabling the NY/NJ HIDTA to more accurately identify emerging drug threats and more effectively target the specific problems in the region.

In 2011, in addition to the New York/New Jersey (NY/NJ) HIDTA, the Washington/Baltimore, Atlanta, and Chicago HIDTAs will all develop similar threat assessments.

Intelligence Exchange and Information Sharing

The sharing of intelligence and information is required to continuously pinpoint the most acute aspects of the drug threat and ensure the proper focus of a law enforcement strategy. Ongoing partnerships among ONDCP, the DOJ, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and state and local law enforcement are expanding intelligence gathering resources and capabilities, while The Interdiction Committee (TIC) continues to lead the interagency effort to develop national law enforcement coordination and deconfliction107 capability. (Action Item 5.1B)

The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Fusion Center provides investigative and operational intelligence support to OCDETF investigations through the development of organizational target profiles and the development of specific investigative leads. These leads and intelligence products are disseminated to the appropriate field elements of the OCDETF agencies through the DEA-led multi-agency Special Operations Division (SOD). The primary mission of SOD is to establish seamless law enforcement strategies and operations aimed at dismantling national and international trafficking organizations by attacking their command and control communications. SOD is able to facilitate coordination and communication among law enforcement entities with overlapping investigations and ensure tactical and operational intelligence is shared and that enforcement operations and investigations are fully coordinated among and between law enforcement agencies. SOD is also utilized as a deconfliction center for all drug-related and money laundering investigations. (Action Item 5.1B)

In 2010, DHS and HIDTA expanded from three to nine co-located DHS Fusion Centers and HIDTA Intelligence and Investigative Support Centers (IISC) to improve intelligence sharing. The DHS Fusion Centers collect, analyze, and disseminate crime and national security threat information to Federal, state, local, tribal, and private stakeholders. Fusion centers help avoid duplication of effort, leverage intelligence resources, connect crime databases, and support efforts to combat organized crime. (Action Item 5.1C)

In addition, there are currently 21 operational DHS-led Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) offices, including one in Mexico City, which leverage more than 350 Federal, state, local, and foreign law enforcement agents and officers representing more than 80 law enforcement agencies. BESTs provide a co-located platform to conduct intelligence-driven investigations aimed at transnational criminal organizations operating on the Southwest and Northern borders in the air, land, and sea. In 2010, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) doubled the number of special agents and personnel assigned to BESTs. This expansion strengthened the Nation’s ability to dismantle the leadership and infrastructure of criminal organizations seeking to exploit our borders.

El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC)

The DEA-led El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) supports U.S. law enforcement and interdiction components through the timely analysis and dissemination of intelligence on illicit drug and alien movements and criminal organizations that are responsible for these illegal activities. EPIC, originally established as a regional intelligence center focused on the Southwest border, is now a national tactical intelligence center that focuses its efforts on supporting law enforcement efforts in the Western Hemisphere. EPIC is jointly staffed by a number of personnel from DOJ (DEA, FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives [ATF]), DHS (Customs and Border Protection [CBP], ICE, and the U.S. Coast Guard), DOD, and state and local agencies; it gathers and shares important drug trafficking, interdiction, and other national security-related intelligence.

Through its 24-hour Watch function, EPIC provides immediate access to participating agencies’ databases to law enforcement agents, investigators, and analysts. This function is critical in the dissemination of relevant information in support of tactical and investigative activities, deconfliction, and officer safety. EPIC also provides significant, direct tactical intelligence support to state and local law enforcement agencies, especially in the areas of clandestine laboratory investigations and highway interdiction. In 2010, EPIC contributed to a number of key arrests on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, sharing important intelligence with U.S. and Mexican law enforcement agencies to disrupt key drug trafficking operations in the region.

In 2011, law enforcement will expand participation in targeted drug enforcement teams to include; HIDTA task forces, OCDETF Strike Forces, BESTs, Integrated Border Enforcement Teams (IBET), and Safe Streets and Safe Trails Task Forces. In addition to enforcement task forces, Federal, state, local, and tribal partners will also increase their integration and involvement in intelligence and information sharing centers and databases, to include DHS Fusion Centers, EPIC, HIDTA IISCs, the ICE Bulk Cash Smuggling Center, OCDETF Fusion Center, the National Seizure System, deconfliction databases, and other analytical systems.

Indian Country

Drug trafficking, distribution, and consumption, pose significant and ongoing challenges for tribal areas throughout the United States. In addition, tribal communities are encountering significant trafficking operations within their regions, particularly along U.S. borders. Despite increased Federal, state, and tribal enforcement efforts, Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) continue to use routes through tribal lands along the Southwest border. One particularly affected tribe is the Tohono O’odham Nation, whose lands include more than 2.7 million acres in south central Arizona and northern Mexico. Federal partners are working with state and tribal law enforcement to expand enforcement in this region to reduce the burden of drug trafficking on the members of the Tohono O’odham tribe.

The ICE Shadow Wolves program directly engages state and tribal law enforcement officers on the Tohono O’odham Nation to disrupt drug trafficking and related crime on the reservation. Established by Congressional mandate in 1974 in response to the rampant smuggling occurring through the Tohono O’odham Indian Nation, the Shadow Wolves are Native American ICE Tactical Officers who, together with tribal police and Border Patrol, use technology and traditional tracking techniques to interdict and investigate narcotics smugglers operating on the reservation. In addition, the Shadow Wolves work to raise awareness of smuggling activity within the region and solicit information the community may have pertaining to smuggling activities. The Shadow Wolves have advised other tribes seeking to establish similar partnerships. They are working in the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana and the Bay Mills Chippewa Indian Reservation to more effectively connect Federal, state, and tribal law enforcement leaders.

The Northern border is also a target, with DTOs frequently using tribal territories in the region as trafficking routes and distribution points for illicit drugs entering the U.S. In response, ONDCP is working with tribal leadership and law enforcement to improve information and resource sharing in these important regions of the country. Additionally, six HIDTA grantees are currently conducting enforcement operations and trainings with tribal nations located in Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Oklahoma, and Washington.

In 2010, the Warm Springs Indian Reservation was designated as a HIDTA and is now a partner in the Oregon HIDTA. Warm Springs is the first Indian reservation to be designated as a HIDTA. Many HIDTAdesignated counties include portions of tribal lands, but Warm Springs is the first in the history of the HIDTA Program to be designated regardless of county lines.

Also in 2010, Navajo County, Arizona, home to the Hopi, Navajo, and White Mountain Apache tribes was designated as a HIDTA county. These designations are in response to growing threats within Indian country and serve to enhance Federal drug investigation and enforcement support in tribal communities. In addition, the FBI maintains an Indian Country Special Crimes Unit (ICSCU), which is charged with developing and implementing strategies targeted to the specific crime threats on tribal lands. In partnership with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the ICSCU provides critical funding and training for Indian country law enforcement officers, including courses on drug and gang investigations. This program trains more than 1,000 Indian country officers, support personnel, and community leaders every year, and represents an important tool in addressing drug-related crime on tribal lands.

In September 2010, DOJ awarded $127 million to several hundred American Indian and Alaskan Native communities to enhance law enforcement, strengthen justice systems, prevent youth substance abuse, provide support services to elderly victims of crime and victims of sexual assault, and support other efforts to combat crime. These grants are the first under the Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation, a new effort combining 10 different DOJ grant programs into a single solicitation. These funds were awarded in response to the input of tribal leaders from across the United States, who expressed their need for expanded investigation and enforcement infrastructures. All of these initiatives will further enable tribal law enforcement to reduce drug-related and other crimes within their communities.
 

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