SALISBURY — Wicomico’s ongoing battle with drugs and crime got a much needed shot in the arm from the federal government with the designation of the county last Friday as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) and a grant of $10.6 million announced the same day to help reverse the ignominy of the designation.
Last Friday, National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske, announced the designation of Wicomico County as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. The designation allows the county to receive federal resources to further the coordination and cooperation on drug control efforts between federal, state and local law enforcement officers on the Eastern Shore.
The designation also allows Wicomico to benefit from ongoing HIDTA initiatives, which are working to reduce drug use and its consequences across the country. With last week’s announcement, Wicomico joins Baltimore City and seven other counties in Maryland in and around the Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas to receive the designation.
“Drugs place enormous obstacles in the way of our work to raise healthy children, maintain strong families, support economic prosperity and protect communities from crime,” said Kerlickowske. “The innovative initiatives and support provided by the HIDTA program will play an important role in helping local authorities combat drug-related violence and crime in Maryland.”
The HIDTA designation for Wicomico comes on the heels of a threat analysis, which identified the diversion and abuse of prescription drugs as one of the primary drug threats impacting health and public safety in the county. According to the Wicomico Sheriff’s Office, pharmaceutical trafficking is growing at an alarming rate in the county. For example, within the last year, the number of oxycodone pills seized by the Wicomico County Narcotics Task Force increased from five pills in 2009 to 1,539 in 2010.
On the same day as the HIDTA designation for Wicomico was announced, U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski announced the county will be just one of seven nationwide to receive $10.6 million in federal resources to target drug trafficking, gangs and networks in the county.
“This federal support to our local law enforcement is an investment in keeping our communities strong and thriving,” she said. “Drug use has long been a serious problem that has impact communities across our country. We must not let up in our fight to stamp out drug trafficking criminals and gangs that destroy lives and hurt our neighborhoods. I will continue to fight to keep drugs out of our communities because we can’t afford to lose any more of our young people to drug use.”