WASHINGTON – Sen. Charles E. Schumer on Friday asked the president’s drug czar to designate Chautauqua County as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area in hopes of boosting the federal government’s response to a serious increase in heroin use there.
Noting that heroin arrests have tripled in Jamestown over the past three years, Schumer said the President’s Office of National Drug Control Policy should get involved.
“Heroin use, fatal overdoses and drug-related crime are again on the rise, and Chautauqua County in particular has seen a rise in heroin use that is alarming,” said Schumer, D-N.Y. “That is why I am calling on the feds to designate Chautauqua County a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which will provide technical expertise, more law enforcement personnel and the potential for more funding to combat heroin use and tackle this challenge head- on,”
Heroin was linked to more deaths in Jamestown last year than any other drug, and the Jamestown Police Department estimates that 90 percent of the city’s crime is drug-related. In addition, a major drug-trafficking group, the Angueira Drug Ring, was busted in the Jamestown area in 2011.
It’s all evidence that the region needs help from the federal government to combat the drug problem, said Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace.
“The Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office works day and night to keep the residents of this community safe, but in recent years the volume of drugs moving through our community has continued to increase,” Gerace said. “We have applied to become a federally designated High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area so that we can access vital intelligence and information from other regions and potentially additional federal funding to fight drug trafficking in our community.
Schumer spelled out his concerns in a letter to Michael Botticelli, acting director of the National Drug Control Policy Office at the White House.
Noting that federal involvement has helped fight the heroin problem in New York City, Schumer told Botticelli: “In my home state of New York, Chautauqua County is experiencing a public health crisis. The use of heroin has skyrocketed over the past several years and is harming citizens throughout the county.”
Winning the federal designation would increase federal anti-drug funding for Chautauqua County, as well as promote greater coordination between local, state, and federal law enforcement personnel in the region.