Shelby County Receives Federal Designation to Fight Drug Trafficking

August 23, 2010
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Shelby County today received designation as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA).  This Federal designation will further the development of joint drug control efforts by federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement officers in the region and allow them to benefit from ongoing HIDTA initiatives.  Congressman Steve Cohen issued a letter requesting the designation in April.

“It is vital that federal, state and local government work together to combat drug trafficking in Shelby County,” said Congressman Cohen.  “This designation will give us the interagency help we need to better fight crime and protect our neighborhoods from the perils of drugs.  I am pleased to have worked with Acting U.S. Attorney Larry Laurenzi on this effort and am pleased U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton will have this weapon in his arsenal.”

Consistent with the National Drug Control Strategy, the HIDTA program aims to reduce drug trafficking and production in the United States by:

  • Facilitating cooperation among federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to share information and implement coordinated enforcement activities;
  • Enhancing law enforcement intelligence sharing among federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies;
  • Providing reliable law enforcement intelligence to law enforcement agencies to facilitate the design of effective enforcement strategies and operations; and
  • Supporting coordinated law enforcement strategies that make the most of available resources to reduce the supply of illegal drugs in designated areas of the United States and in the Nation as a whole.

The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, created by Congress with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, provides assistance to federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug trafficking regions of the United States.

There are currently 28 HIDTAs, which include approximately 15 percent of all counties in the United States and 58 percent of the U.S. population. HIDTA-designated counties are located in 45 States, as well as in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia.

Below is the letter Congressman Cohen wrote to the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in April:

April 20, 2010

R. Gil Kerlikowske
White House Office of National Drug Control Policy
750 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20503

Dear Director Kerlikowske:

I am writing to offer my strong support for Shelby County, Tennessee’s application for funding through the Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA).  Shelby County law enforcement is already making an important contribution to the Mid-South region’s successful drug interdiction operations and hopes to greatly expand its efforts with the use of HIDTA funds.

Shelby County’s advantages as a transportation and distribution hub unfortunately also make it a target for drug trafficking.  Shelby County includes the intersection of two interstate highways, I-40 and I-55, and also hosts major railroad lines, maritime ports, and Memphis International Airport.  This abundance of transportation routes makes Shelby County an appealing destination and distribution hub for drug traffickers.

Local law enforcement proposes using HIDTA funds in a multi-pronged effort to combat drug trafficking.  One component would focus on all aspects of drug interdiction with another component focusing on disrupting and dismantling significant drug trafficking organizations (DTOs).  The interdiction initiative would involve expanding the County’s current efforts assisting in the region’s Domestic Highway Enforcement Program.  The major investigative components would ensure that all available intelligence is captured and shared with appropriate parties.  This unit would concentrate on major DTOs, with a particular focus on the Mexican groups that are the major source of supply for Shelby County-based traffickers.

Shelby County’s proposal is a natural fit for the Gulf Coast HIDTA and would significantly contribute to the entire Mid-South region’s efforts to combat drug trafficking.  I understand that the Gulf Coast HIDTA Executive Board has already expressed its support for this application and would welcome Shelby County’s participation.  I strongly support this proposal and I respectfully request that you give it all due consideration.


Steve Cohen
Member of Congress