Fighting the flow of illegal drugs into the Region just got a boost.
LaPorte and Marion counties have been added to the Lake County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. The HIDTA designation from the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy will allow those two counties, along with existing members Lake and Porter counties, to access federal resources to combat drug operations and increase enforcement.
Created by Congress in 1988, the HIDTA task force program serves as a catalyst for coordination among federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug trafficking regions of the United States. Law enforcement organizations working within HIDTAs assess drug-trafficking issues and design specific initiatives to decrease the production, transportation, distribution and chronic use of drugs and money laundering.
LaPorte County Sheriff John Boyd called the inclusion of LaPorte County in the HIDTA task force “huge.”
“This was one of the most rigorous processes we ever went through,” he said, adding they submitted their application, which also includes LaPorte police, Michigan City police and the LaPorte County prosecutor, on Jan. 1, 2015.
“We have a significant drug problem in LaPorte County. We can’t do it locally; we need to fight it from a regional standpoint. We know the drugs are coming from Chicago,” he said, adding the interstates and rail allow dealers easy access to the Region.
“We will be able to pool intelligence and strategies, run investigations together and be joined by federal and state agencies,” said Boyd, adding those involved are holding a news conference in late October to address the HIDTA designation.
David Capp, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, said LaPorte County is the logical extension in efforts to “try to impact and disassemble drug trafficking” in the Region.
“We have a longstanding relationship with LaPorte County, and this will only enhance that relationship,” said Capp, adding HIDTA has a very effective intelligence center and bringing LaPorte and Marion counties into the fold will bring more information that can be assessed and analyzed.
Capp said while Marion County is not contiguous, it is a part of the reality of drug trafficking in the state, and will allow all parties to better coordinate efforts.
“This is tremendous for law enforcement. This has been discussed for more than a year,” said Porter County Sheriff Dave Reynolds. Porter County was added in 2011.
“Especially the addition of LaPorte County from our perspectives. We know the drugs are coming from Chicago, and then to Lake and Porter and LaPorte counties. This will allow us to solidify our efforts. We will be a stronger organization with LaPorte County,” Reynolds said.
“A lot of drugs and gangs are going down 65 to Marion County. We know there is a direct connection, so it makes perfect sense to add Marion County,” he said.
“I am proud to have worked since day one to secure and support a federal HIDTA designation for Lake County, and the subsequent addition of Porter County. I am pleased today that by expanding the Lake County HIDTA to include LaPorte and Marion counties, we will be able to further improve our ability to regionally coordinate federal funding and intelligence resources to address the transportation corridors of drug traffickers and keep our communities safe,” said U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky in a written statement.
“As Indiana, and our country, fight the drug epidemics that are devastating families and communities, I was proud to support LaPorte County in applying for this designation that will bring resources to help law enforcement combat drug trafficking,” said U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly in a written statement.
Donnelly said it will take cooperation at every level of government, along with community partners, to provide a comprehensive response to the drug epidemic by rooting out drug traffickers, expanding prevention efforts and increasing access to treatment and recovery services.