A Successful Approach to Dealing with Illicit Drug Use in America
Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.
On August 5, I was honored with a Champions of Change award, allowing me to join a conversation between Administration officials and community leaders from around the country to discuss solutions we are implementing to deal with illicit drug use in America.
Hearing from the incredible Champions of Change around me drove home the point that to be successful in countering the drug problem we must address it together with emphasis not only on supply reduction but also on demand reduction while dealing with the consequences when supply and demand reduction have not been enough. The enormous problem we confront requires a “Team of Teams” approach.
The South Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force Program emphasizes the importance of the team approach to drug law enforcement, bringing multiple federal state and local agencies’ resources together in joint task forces to work cooperatively and share intelligence and capabilities. HIDTA, a program of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, orchestrates and facilitates law enforcement drug task force operations by pooling the cooperative efforts of 53state and local participating law enforcement agencies and 12 federal agencies. Over 640 collocated full-time personnel participate in HIDTA initiatives. During 2010, The South Florida HIDTA dismantled or disrupted 131 Drug Trafficking /Drug Money Laundering Organizations in 2010. The South Florida HIDTA conducts high level investigations, as evidenced by its history of dismantling the most significant organizations and kingpins.
In 2010 South Florida HIDTA seized over $558M in wholesale value drugs and $186M in cash. It also seized millions in other assets resulting in a return on investment of $138.64 for every HIDTA dollar spent.
The South Florida HIDTA Prevention Initiative is a teen education and development partnership program administered by the South Florida HIDTA and the Florida National Guard Counterdrug Program. This initiative is not designed to duplicate the efforts of existing prevention programs, but to enhance the prevention efforts through training and education. Through the vehicle of these programs participants are equipped with the necessary leadership principals that enable them to overcome challenges and resist drugs. Learning how to make good choices and combat negative influences such as peer pressure from street gangs, criminal activity and peers are a few of the primary benefits of the programs. During 2010, Stay on Track program representatives visited nine schools drawing a total of 1,090 students. Youth Leader program representatives, in 2010, visited 10 schools and challenged 1,408 students.
The prevention effort also includes the Night Vision presentation, which focuses on educating students on the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. During 2010, the program was presented to 19,753 students within the South Florida region.
Under Timothy Wagner’s leadership The South Florida HIDTA was recently named the HIDTA of The Year in recognition of its accomplishments.
Timothy Wagner began his public service career in 1971 with the U.S. Customs Service. Between 1971-1999 he served in several positions including Special Agent and Group Supervisor in Detroit, Michigan, Deputy Special Agent in Charge in Miami, Florida, and Director of Financial Investigations Division in Washington, D.C. In 2000 he became the Director of the South Florida HIDTA.