More federal resources coming to fight drug trafficking in Marion County

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — More money, resources and information sharing from the federal government are coming help fight the “crisis” of drug trafficking in central Indiana.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, US Senator Joe Donnelly, IMPD Chief Troy Riggs and others made the announcement Tuesday afternoon at the downtown Central Library.  Marion County is officially designated a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, or HIDTA.

“We are experiencing crisis in Marion County in drug dealing and drug distribution,” Curry said.

“This is taking some of our most precious youth,” Donnelly said.  “Some of our most precious gifts.”

Overall, there are 28 specialized HIDTA areas the U.S., most which are located around the biggest cities.  Most of the HIDTA areas incorporate multiple counties and are located in 49 states as well as Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia.  Lake and Porter counties in Indiana near Chicago make up one, Marion will be added to that group, along with Laporte County.

Locally, IMPD information shows there have been at least 22 homicides this year because of drugs. Officers say they’ve been placing their narcotics teams in each district to fight those issues.

“We have four interstates that intersect into our county,” Curry said.  “There is no question that Marion County, Indianapolis is a convenient pathway and hub for the distribution of illegal drugs.”

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, drug use accounted for 964 deaths in Indiana in 2010.  That’s more than traffic accidents, at 768 and gun violence, at 709.

Area leaders say the new HIDTA designation will open up a variety of federal funds to help fight drug trafficking and addiction.

“Central Indiana has an emerging drug problem and we’ve done a lot of things to stem that, but hopefully the designation will free up some money and some other things that will allow that to happen at a faster and greater rate,” said Scott Watson of Heartland Intervention.

Curry said it took more than 3 years to receive the designation from the federal government.  He applied for Marion County to join the existing Lake County designation.

IMPD Chief Troy Riggs would not reveal specifics on how the resources and intelligence sharing would be put to practical use.  But he mentioned the use of technology, which drug traffickers are getting better at utilizing.  He also pointed to ongoing efforts to share crime data and information with federal agencies.

“They can look at a bigger scope,” Riggs said.  “They can look at if there are any ties to national and international ties.”

According to a fact sheet released by Curry’s office, the Prosecutors Office and Department of Public safety will:

  1. Facilitate cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to share information and implement coordinated enforcement activities.

  2. Enhance a multi jurisdictional approach to prosecution of known drug traffickers and repeat drug offenders

  3. Coordinate information and investigations with the Lake County HIDTA, ultimately resulting in decreased drug trafficking.

  4. Implement prevention activities aimed at decreasing drug use.

It’s not known how much funding will flow to central Indiana as a result of the HIDTA designation.  But it was pointed out Tuesday that Lake County received $3.3 million as part of its HIDTA designation, which Marion County now joins.

“This is not a magic bullet, and will not be a resolution in and of itself,” Curry said.  “But it will be an additional significant resource in our collective fight.”

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