Joel Reece, deputy director for Tennessee of the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, announced Bradley County’s addition to HIDTA’s partnership of federal, state and local agencies working to identify and bring down drug trafficking organizations.
The Appalachia HIDTA focus has shifted from eradicating marijuana grow operations confronting law enforcement agencies in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia when it was formed in 1998 to include other substances that have skyrocketing numbers of addicts.
In a meeting to go over details of the selection, Bradley County Sheriff Jim Ruth expressed his appreciation to Reece and Appalachia HIDTA Director Frank Rapier, saying it will boost local efforts to control the drug problem in Bradley County.
“We’re as proud as a peacock,” he proclaimed.
Ruth said the designation means the sheriff’s office will be eligible for additional funds and will receive support and coordination for its Special Investigations Unit and the agency’s overall efforts to effectively fight trafficking of illegal substances including prescription medications, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana.
Reece said counties considered for the program must meet specific criteria. Bradley County met the criteria and he described the county’s inclusion as a “natural fit.”
“A lot of the cases and a lot of the investigations that were taking place the HIDTA group was doing either had a starting point or an ending point here or had some involvement in Bradley County. It was just a logical step to add them,” Reece said.
He went on to explain that HIDTA basically focuses on “sophisticated drug trafficking organizations.”
“Any major drug trafficking organization operating in this area is going to touch Bradley County,” Reece said.
One factor cited by Ruth for Bradley County’s drug problem is the proximity to Atlanta that has become a major point for distributing illegal drugs in the southeast and throughout the entire country. Both officials agreed that trafficking prescription medications has risen to become a major problem.
The website for the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Tennessee explained the function of HIDTAs that serve 32 areas of the country.
“Law enforcement organizations within HIDTAs assess drug trafficking problems and design specific initiatives to reduce or eliminate the production, manufacture, transportation, distribution and chronic use of illegal drugs and money laundering.
The HIDTA Program helps improve the effectiveness and efficiency of drug control efforts by facilitating cooperation between drug control organizations through resource and information sharing, collocating and implementing joint initiatives. HIDTA funds help federal, state and local law enforcement organizations invest in infrastructure and joint initiatives to confront drug- trafficking organizations.”
Ruth said the BCSO’s drug enforcement efforts are now coordinated through the Special Investigations Unit .
He added, “We welcome the new resources gained by the HIDTA partnership and anticipate positive results from this in the future.”
Other counties in the area that are a part of the Appalachia HIDTA are Bledsoe, Hamilton, Rhea and Sequatchie.