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Feds recognize drug
problems in Clayton, Henry

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The federal government named Clayton and Henry counties "High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas," saying the counties serve as significant centers of drug production, manufacturing, importation and distribution.

Speaking by phone from his office in Washington D.C., Scott M. Burns, deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said Henry County had been named for its methamphetamine problem and Clayton County had been named for its cocaine problem.

The designation means that the two Southern Crescent counties will receive federal funds, because a "significant increase" in funds is needed to "respond adequately" to the drug problem. The money is dedicated, according to the federal drug control policy office, to "assist local law enforcement efforts to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations."

Burns, the White House's "Deputy Drug Czar," said five metro Atlanta counties named on Thursday, including Clayton and Henry, will receive $550,000 from the federal government.

"That doesn't seem like a lot," Burns said, "but they now have the benefit of the [High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas] program. The main benefit of HIDTA, in my humble opinion, is not so much the money, but the coordination that goes on and the assistance of all the other agencies."

Since Atlanta was named a HIDTA in 1995, 15 area agencies have had their jurisdictions named drug trafficking problem areas and have joined the program. Those agencies, along with federal law enforcement organizations, share information, through the program, and work together.

Now the Clayton County Police Department and the Henry County Police Department, the 14th and 15th agencies to join the federal program, will participate in the coordination.

"Those walls are broken down," Burns said, "and good things happen when good people come together and share intelligence, set forth specific threats and come up with a plan and a strategy."

Federal officials believe that HIDTA is partially responsible for declining drug use among teens and partially responsible for cocaine shortages, in 2007, and a decrease in domestic meth labs.

"We believe," Burns said, "that the HIDTA is one of the tools that we have used, nationally, to drive down drug use."