UMATILLA COUNTY RECEIVES HIGHLY SOUGHT FEDERAL DRUG DESIGNATION
White House drug office declares county High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area; Walden to discuss benefits of designation with local community this Friday
September 7, 2005 - WASHINGTON, DC -
U.S. Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR), a member of the Congressional Caucus to Fight and Control Methamphetamine, today announced that the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has designated Umatilla County a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). Walden, who persistently pursued this designation for the County for several years, learned that the State of Oregon received notification from ONDCP Director John P. Walters today. Walden will be at the Umatilla County Criminal Justice Center (Media Room, 4700 NW Pioneer Place, Pendleton) this Friday, September 9, for a Noon to 1:00 p.m. to meet with local law enforcement officials to discuss the importance of this new designation.
“This welcome announcement couldn't come too soon for all of Umatilla County, and our state in general. As we saw during the March fourth town hall on methamphetamine I hosted in Pendleton, Umatilla County has been put through the ringer in terms of drug manufacturing and trafficking, and this wave of activity crashes well beyond the County’s borders. While many have worked tirelessly to rid Umatilla County of the scourge of illegal drugs, additional resources are needed to wage the most effective battle,” said Walden.
“So far this year, Umatilla County has seized more meth labs than any other county in Oregon, and with only two percent of the state’s population, their seizures make up 23% of the State’s total. Beyond meth, the County also faces a severe problem with marijuana production, a drug far more toxic today than just a decade or two ago. Area law enforcement had a single raid last summer that resulted in the seizure of more than 17,000 plants with a street value of $17 million. This clearly illustrates how Umatilla County’s problem is large enough to impact the entire state.
“I commend the excellent work done by Sheriff John Trumbo, the city police chiefs and officers, BENT, and Chuck Karl of Oregon HIDTA in finding solutions to this problem. Both Umatilla County and Oregon HIDTA made a very strong case in the application for a designation, and the additional resources now available through this program will help advance their efforts a great deal,” he added.
The HIDTA program enhances and coordinates drug control efforts among local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, and provides agencies with coordination, equipment, technology, and additional resources to combat drug trafficking. These tools from the federal government will help supplement the good work already being done at the local level by the area’s talented law enforcement professionals, individuals who have made a tremendous impact on the problem, but must cover vast areas of rural land with already strained personnel levels.
Oregon was one of only three states nationwide to receive HIDTA designations this year. HIDTA counties will receive funds to establish the local program and be eligible for additional federal funds for future HIDTA initiatives.
On February 23, Walden sent a letter to Walters in which he outlined the rising threat to Oregon’s Second District posed by methamphetamine, especially in Umatilla County, which had the highest number of clandestine labs per capita in the state. In his letter, Walden repeated his request to have Umatilla County added to the list of HIDTA counties, a task he knew was challenging given budgetary restraints facing the federal government, but one he also knew was critical to the region’s overall public safety and health.
“I want to especially thank ONDCP Deputy Director Scott Burns and Associate Deputy Director John Horton, a fellow Oregonian, for their continued commitment to the meth epidemic plaguing eastern Oregon,” said Walden. “When they traveled with me to Umatilla County in August of 2004, they were able to hear firsthand from local law enforcement just how devastating the problem in Umatilla County had become. Ever since that time, they have remained in close contact with our office and I’m grateful for their personal support of this designation.”
Other HIDTA counties in Oregon are Clackamas, Deschutes, Douglas, Jackson, Marion, Multnomah and Washington. A copy of Walden’s February letter to Walters can be found at: www.walden.house.gov/issues/meth.
Congressman Walden represents 20 counties in central, southern and eastern Oregon. He is a Deputy Whip in the House Leadership Structure and a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Resources.