Both Crawford County, Ks., population 40,000, and New York City are federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, eligible for taxpayer money under a $227 million program that helps pay for teams of federal, state, and local officers who target illegal drug activity, says USA Today. The 15-year-old program is credited with helping bust thousands of drug dealers and traffickers.
The Bush administration says HIDTA has become bloated and far removed from its original mission to focus on drug trafficking in Houston, Los Angeles, New York and New Jersey, South Florida, and the Southwestern border areas of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. The White House wants to cut the program’s budget to $100 million for the fiscal year that begins in October. The Bush plan raises questions about whether some of the program’s 33 regional anti-drug task forces essentially would be shut down. Law enforcement officials and several members of Congress predict that drug trafficking will increase and crime rates will rise if the regional task forces are scaled back significantly. Tom Schatz of Citizens Against Government Waste expects Congress to protect HIDTA: “It’s morphed into a giant opportunity for members of Congress to grab money for their states and districts so they can say they are doing something about drug trafficking. Suddenly 25 percent of the U.S. population is living in a high-intensity drug-trafficking area.”