Feds Declare Ocean County a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area

Oct 04, 2017

Ocean County is now officially on the front lines of the war on drugs. On Sept. 28, Congressman Tom MacArthur, whose 3rd New Jersey Congressional District includes much of Ocean County including the western half of Stafford Township and all of Barnegat Township, announced that Ocean County has been designated as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area by the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

MacArthur, the Republican chairman of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, had pushed for such a designation, leading a letter to the ONDCP urging the addition to the HIDTA program and meeting with local, county, state and federal law enforcement officials to discuss the importance of the designation. His Bipartisan Heroin Task Force also successfully fought against budget cuts to the ONDCP and its HIDTA program.

“Ocean County has been devastated by drug addiction,” MacArthur said while making his announcement. “Last year, 190 Ocean County residents died from an overdose – that’s one death every 43 hours. Our local law enforcement officials are on the front lines of this fight and need help to get dealers off our streets and stop drugs from flowing into our communities. This designation is critical for Ocean County and will ensure our police officers have the assistance and resources they need to save loved ones.”

The HIDTA program was created by Congress via the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1998. Its purpose is to reduce drug trafficking and production in the United States by enhancing law enforcement intelligence-sharing among federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies and supporting coordinated enforcement strategies that maximize use of available resources to reduce the supply of illegal drugs in designated areas and in the United States as a whole. Just as significantly, the designation could lead to more federal funding for anti-drug efforts by Ocean County’s law enforcement agencies.

“Drug trafficking is a national problem that has to be addressed on the local level, and adding these counties to the HIDTA program is a critical part of this effort,” said Richard Baum, acting director of National Drug Control Policy. “These new designations and the funding they will bring will help our federal, state and local law enforcement officers work together to disrupt and dismantle the trafficking networks that are bringing drugs into our communities.”

There are currently 28 HIDTAs, which include approximately 18.3 percent of all counties in the U.S. The HIDTA-designated counties are located in 49 states as well as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the District of Columbia and the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in Oregon.

As for the critical issue of funding, the HIDTA program currently funds 752 initiatives throughout the nation, including multi-agency investigative, interdiction and prosecution activities; intelligence and information-sharing initiatives and drug use prevention and drug treatment initiatives.

Speaking of funding, the week before MacArthur’s HIDTA announcement he had announced that the ONDCP had awarded Drug-Free Communities grants to the tune of $125,000 each to Burlington County’s (parts of which MacArthur’s district also includes) Coalition for Healthy Communities and Ocean County’s DART Coalition. The grants will provide those local community coalitions funding to prevent youth substance abuse, including prescription drugs, marijuana, tobacco and alcohol. —R.M.


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