Atlantic County just got some added power — and funding — in its fight against drug trafficking.
As the newest member of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, the county will have a group of dedicted law enforcement members from various departments helping to curb the growing drug problem.
It will include help from the federal level, including the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“This is yet another strategy that we will employ to make our community safer and healthier.”
Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner
“This is yet another strategy that we will employ to make our community safer and healthier,” Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner said in announcing the new designation Tuesday.
Background checks are now being done on those who have been recommended to join the group.
Police departments from Atlantic City, Pleasantville, Somers Point, and Egg Harbor, Galloway and Hamilton townships, along with the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Office were among those represented, and who will have members in the task force of sorts.
Tyner said he could not give away the number of personnel on the team, but said it was the first time he had more volunteers than spots to fill.
Having a federal presence at the start of drug investigations will have added benefits, Atlantic City Police Chief Henry White told BreakingAC, who cited the 2013 FBI-led raid that crippled the Dirty Blok drug-trafficking gang.
Atlantic County is third in the state on Drug Harm Assessment, says ASAC Nicholas Kolen, of the DEA
“I’m excited about it,” he said.
It comes at a time when the opioid problem is growing in the area.
Atlantic County now ranks third in the state under a Drug Harm Assessment conducted by the State Police Regional Operations Intelligence Center, or ROIC.
It was seventh in the rankings released in a February 2017 report that looked at numbers from Jan. 1, 2015 through Jan. 31, 2017.
The assessment looks at several different factors including use of Narcan and drug overdose deaths, explained, DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Nicholas Kolen.
“Atlantic County was one of the highest if not number one in a lot of them,” he said.
That includes 171 drug-related deaths last year, Tyner said.
The main issues is fentanyl, a deadly drug that many know for being mixed with heroin. But the synthetic that is seven to 10 times more potent than heroin is showing up in a lot of drugs, Kolen warned.
That includes pill form that is sold on the street as Oxycontin.
Many pay more per pill because they believe they at least know what they’re getting. But that is no longer the case, Kolen said.
“Most of them are illegal drugs manufactured in someone’s basement,” he said.
Much of the drug comes from Mexico and China, purchased on the “dark web,” it’s a cheap way to cut the product and increase profits.
The HIDTA program was created as part of the the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988.
There are 28 HIDTAs located in 46 States, along with Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia, according to the program’s website.
The New York/New Jersey HIDTA, which includes Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Passaic and Union counties, started in 1990 and was one of the original five in the nation.
Atlantic County joins the Liberty Mid-Atlantic HIDTA, which includes Ocean and Camden counties in New Jersey along with Philadelphia.
Each HIDTA assesses the drug-trafficking threat in its defined area for the upcoming year, develops a strategy to address that threat, designs initiatives to implement the strategy, proposes funding needed to carry out the initiatives and prepares an annual report describing its performance the previous year.