VALPARAISO | Officers from Porter County will be joining a collaborative effort to combat the proliferation of drugs and gang activity after being named a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area by the federal government Monday.

In an interview with The Times, Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said Porter County is one of eight around the country recently identified for entrance into the program. It culls the efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to combat drug trafficking and its harmful consequences.

Kerlikowske said as people migrate farther east, law enforcement agencies are finding issues like drug trafficking and gangs are also moving with them.

"This area of Northwest Indiana has been experiencing an increase in population coming from Illinois and an increase in the presence of gangs," he said.

Agents also have found that drugs being shipped from Mexico and the southwestern states often move through Lake and Porter counties before heading to Chicago.

"Drug dealers and drug traffickers don't care about city boundaries, or county boundaries or state boundaries," Kerlikowske said.

Porter County Sheriff Dave Lain said in joining the Lake County HIDTA, officers from a number of the county's police departments will have access to expanded resources and federal intelligence to combat illegal drug activity.

"It's another powerful tool we have in fighting what I've said is that largest single threat to the quality of life in Porter County," Lain said. "All public safety in Porter County will be enhanced."

Lain said it was the second year that he, along with a collaborative group including the mayors of Portage and Valparaiso, the County Council and Commissioners and the county's police chiefs, applied for the federal designation.

In its current form, the Lake County HIDTA involves personnel from 15 local, state and federal agencies assigned to five separate task force initiatives all designed to decrease the prevalence of drugs, money laundering and gang activity.

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