Rahall Calls for White House Support of W.Va. Law Enforcement

Special to HNN provided from Rep. Nick Rahall Statement

BECKLEY, W.Va. – U.S. Representative Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) is urging White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director (ONDCP) Gil Kerlikowske, the nation’s “Drug Czar,”

 to make available additional resources for law enforcement officials to fight prescription drug abuse and drug trafficking in southern West Virginia.

 “The West Virginia State Police and local law enforcement authorities are working tirelessly to address a tremendous case load, but they are understaffed and lack sufficient resources,” wrote Rahall in a letter to the ONDCP Director.  “These are hard-working, dedicated professionals who want to protect their communities, and already have committed much of their resources and energies to their drug enforcement efforts.”  

 Rahall is urging the ONDCP Director to support the petition from the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) and the West Virginia State Police and local law enforcement to include Mercer County in the Appalachia HIDTA.  With such a designation, southern West Virginia would have increased access to federal resources and information sharing between federal, state, and local law enforcement personnel in reducing drug trafficking within the area.

The West Virginia counties in the Appalachia HIDTA include: Boone, Cabell, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Mason, McDowell, Mingo, and Wayne Counties.

ONDCP Director Kerlikowske is scheduled to visit southern West Virginia on Friday.

The full text of the letter is below:

 Mr. R. Gil Kerlikowske

Director, Office of National Drug Control Polic

Dear Dir. Kerlikowske:

I ask you to carefully review the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) petition submitted by state and local law enforcement authorities of southern West Virginia, and to consider including Mercer County, West Virginia, in the Appalachia HIDTA designation.

 Interstate 77, a north-south corridor between Ohio and South Carolina that runs through Mercer County, is a major gateway into West Virginia for the interstate transportation of drugs through Appalachia.  Mercer County has been linked to drug investigations along this corridor in several states, and even in Mexico.  In addition, Mercer County is right in the middle of the prescription drug abuse epidemic in southern West Virginia and Appalachia that has contributed to an increase in drug-related crimes and the highest state-wide opiate overdose deaths in the nation. According to the petition submitted by Appalachia HIDTA, 87% of all crimes committed in Mercer County are drug related.

The West Virginia State Police and local law enforcement authorities are working tirelessly to address a tremendous case load, but they are understaffed and lack sufficient resources.  To their credit, they have created the Southern Regional Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, which has had notable successes.  State and local law drug enforcement officers, working together with Federal officials, have identified more than 130 drug-trading organizations; initiated at least 200 investigations; and arrested 180 drug-related suspects and dismantled drug trading organizations.  However, only the West Virginia State Police is able to afford a permanent position on the task force, while local law enforcement agencies are forced to rely on sporadic funding, sometimes from Federal grants, to keep the task force operating.  Clearly, they could do more to address the trafficking of prescription drugs throughout the state and Appalachian region with additional support.

These are hard-working, dedicated professionals who want to protect their communities and already have committed much of their resources and energies to their drug enforcement efforts.  I ask that you give their HIDTA petition serious consideration and provide me with a full report on your decision.



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