Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 19, 2013

Regional response: HIDTA expansion a necessity


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — The inclusion of Wyoming County into the federal Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking area is another welcomed step when it comes to fighting the region’s deadly scourge of illegal drug abuse.

Wyoming County is now the 15th county to be included in the Appalachia HIDTA region. The federal designation also includes Mercer, McDowell, Boone, Brooke, Cabell, Hancock, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Marshall, Mason, Mingo, Ohio, Putnam and Wayne Counties.

The Appalachian HIDTA provides increased tools to area law enforcement, including improved access to federal resources and information sharing within southern West Virginia. Law enforcement organizations within the HIDTA area can assess drug-trafficking problems and design specific initiatives to decrease the production, manufacture, transportation, distribution and chronic use of drugs and money laundering, according to U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.

Connecting all of the southern West Virginia counties, and regional drug task forces, through the HIDTA designation is of particular importance. That’s because it will take a regional and coordinated response to fight drug trafficking in southern West Virginia.

All of the counties — and all of the law enforcement agencies and task forces within those counties — should be working together, sharing resources and communicating on a regional basis when it comes to fighting the drug epidemic, as correctly noted last week by Wyoming County Sheriff Randall Aliff. His office is working with the Southern Regional Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force, the West Virginia State Police, the FBI, IRS and ATF in fighting the local drug war.

“I see the devastation that drug abuse causes,” Aliff told the Daily Telegraph last week. “I’ve seen the overdose deaths and what families go through. It’s not just one county’s problem. We just worked a six-month investigation and had people from Ohio and Detroit, Mich., bringing drugs into Wyoming County. We also had people from Wyoming County taking drugs into Mercer and McDowell counties, and people from McDowell and Mercer County bringing drugs into Wyoming County. That’s why cooperation among agencies is so important to us. It’s better when everyone works together.”

Locally, the Southern Regional Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force has been at the forefront in fighting the regional drug problem. The task force is composed of the Wyoming County Sheriff Department, the West Virginia State Police, the McDowell and Mercer County sheriff departments and the police departments of the cities of Bluefield and Princeton.

The HIDTA expansion, and the inclusion of Wyoming County into the federal corridor, will most certainly help when it comes to local law enforcement operations aimed at fighting the deadly scourge of drug abuse.