Federal Funds to Boost N.Texas Area's Anti-Drug!

Federal Funds to Boost N.Texas Area's Anti-Drug!
Posted by FoM on January 23, 1999 at 06:16:09 PT

Metroplex law enforcement agencies yesterday received $2.25 million in long- anticipated federal drug- fighting funds, and officials said the money will be used to fight smugglers and help find treatment for addicts. 
Yesterday's announcement of the new resources for the North Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area came after federal agents made the latest in a series of arrests of people suspected ofsmuggling Colombian heroin through Dallas/Fort Worth Airport."The Metroplex's evolution as a major international transportation center has made the area more vulnerable to illegal drug trafficking," U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm said in a prepared statement announcing approval of the money. "This funding will clearly give federal, state and local law enforcement agencies more tools in ridding North Texas of drug thugs and the poison they spread."Thursday's seizure of 3.36 pounds of heroin at D/FW Airport signaled that federal, state and area agencies need to use the money to work together on investigations that would chip away at the large drug networks and their mounting proceeds, law enforcement officials said."We're finding heroin coming into this region in all kinds of ways," U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins said. "Drug smugglers are not going to stay away from North Texas just because of a grant. We're going to have to prove that this area is too dangerous for them."Officials guiding the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area are expected to earmark the funding to create a central computer database that would gather information on drug trafficking activities and for a clearinghouse that drug addicts could use when looking for information about treatment options in the region.They also plan to use the funding to help pay for an office for David Israelson, director of the North Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. Cities being considered for the office are Arlington, Coppell, Grand Prairie, Irving and Fort Worth. After a location is chosen, it would take about four months to set up the office, federal officials said.The federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program was created in 1988 to help law enforcement agencies coordinate drug-fighting efforts.Three months ago, area law enforcement officials formed the North Texas group, citing an increase in heroin overdoses of teens and a 400 percent increase in drug seizures in 1998 in the 10-county region that includes Northeast Tarrant County, Fort Worth and Dallas."The recent rise of heroin use by young people in the D/ FW area is particularly disturbing," said U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, D-Dallas. "Hopefully, this HIDTA funding will help keep heroin and other deadly drugs away from our children."Law enforcement officials had requested as much as $11 million in ]High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area funds for the region. The North Texas program initially had received $250,000.The new funding appears meager compared with the resources of major drug traffickers, said Phil Jordan, a retired special-agent-in-charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Dallas office. Jordan pointed out that on Thursday, in one of the biggest cocaine seizures in U.S. history, federal officials discovered almost 5 tons of cocaine in a cargo ship delivering iron ore to Houston."The ideal dollar amount should have been over 10 million to be extremely effective," Jordan said. "The recent funding is a start, but Washington has to understand that the influx of drugs coming in is killing teen-agers in Texas."In Thursday's heroin seizure at D/FW Airport, Oscar Ospina, a Colombian who was flying from El Paso to New York, was stopped and questioned by drug task force agents. Ospina told agents that he was carrying heroin, and two packages filled with 120 latex pellets of white heroin from Colombia were found taped under his arms, said Julio Mercado, the special- agent-in-charge of the DEA's Dallas office.The heroin, which probably had been brought across the U.S.-Mexican border after being swallowed by drug couriers, has a street value of about $2.5 million, Mercado said.Ospina, who didn't have an attorney according to federal records, was being held without bail in the medical center at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Worth after being charged with distribution of a controlled substance. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison.Including Thursday's seizure, the D/FW Airport Drug Task Force has seized more than 25 kilograms, 55 pounds, of heroin during the past seven months, Mercado said.The seizures, which included one record-breaking bust, were the first large amounts of heroin from Colombia that agents have detected at the airport, said John Lunt, resident-agent- in-charge of the DEA's Fort Worth office. Before, agents were seizing heroin only from Mexico, he said."We're fighting very formidable foes with the Colombian drug cartel moving heroin into this area," Lunt said. "The HIDTA funding could help us identify patterns of smuggling and larger trafficking organizations."
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