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Central Florida HIDTA

Mission Statement: The mission of the Central Florida HIDTA is to measurable reduce the drug trafficking, money laundering, and violent crime in Central Florida thereby reducing the impact of those drugs and violence on other parts of the United States.

General Information:
Year of Designation: 1998
Geographic Area of Responsibility:
Florida: Volusia, Seminole, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Hillsborough, and Pinellas counties.
Contact Information: (407) 585-2644 or cfhidta@aol.com

Threat Abstract:

The Central Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area covers seven counties from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. It is comprised of (from West to East) Pinellas, Hillsborough, Polk, Osceola, Orange, Seminole, and Volusia Counties. Located within this 8,000 square mile area, inclusive of Brevard County, are three major cities (Orlando, Tampa, and Daytona Beach), four international airports, two major seaports, and 75 miles of coastline on the Gulf and 47 miles of coastline on the Atlantic. Due to the movement of drugs between Tampa, Orlando, and Daytona Beach and the easy accessibility of all counties to US Interstate 4, this area has become known as the I-4 corridor.

The Central Florida HIDTA continues to face a unique drug trafficking situation. It is a smuggling importation target due to its geographic location, its tremendous tourism industry, and its large and efficient air, land, and sea transportation system. The area also supports a large "user" population as is evidenced by the overwhelming amount of heroin deaths. Its agricultural industry supports a migrant worker population responsible for the importation of marijuana and methamphetamine from Texas and Mexico. The major drug problems tend to stay regional. Methamphetamine labs are predominately in Polk County as they were in 1995. However, in 1999 methamphetamine labs began to appear in the surrounding counties as well. Heroin is still the number one problem facing the Central Florida area. Reported heroin overdose deaths for the Central Florida HIDTA reached a total of 80, with the most reported in Orange County followed by Hillsborough County. A recent Orlando Sentinel newspaper article stated; "The toll rose so high that greater Orlando is certain to repeat this year (2000) as the most likely place in Florida for someone to die from heroin." Other counties are also reporting an increase in the heroin problem. These heroin deaths however overshadow the ever-present cocaine problem. In 1999, cocaine overdose deaths surpassed heroin overall with a reported 82 deaths within the Central Florida HIDTA, showing cocaine use in all forms prevalent across Central Florida. The area as a whole has experienced increases in methamphetamine use, with concentrated areas found around the Mexican migrant farming communities. Marijuana is still the drug of choice across Central Florida. This is facilitated by increased indoor grows, over-night parcel deliveries, and concealed in passenger luggage carried through the international airports. The drug Ecstasy, also known as methylenediox methamphetamine (MDMA) is flooding the Central Florida area, primarily Orlando and Tampa. The "Rave scene" in these cities also promotes the use of other "club drugs" such as Ketamine, Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate (GHB), Nitrous Oxide, and Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD).

Strategy Abstract:

The Central Florida HIDTA focuses on a regional concept, concentrating on the most prevalent drug in those regions. It strives to disrupt and dismantle those organizations responsible for the importation, manufacture, and distribution of those drugs. The Central Florida HIDTA coordinates thirteen (13) initiatives for 2001. These initiatives are contained within three (3) sub-systems: Intelligence, Investigative, and Support.

The intelligence sub-system was initiated to provide regional intelligence support to all HIDTA initiatives and law enforcement in the area. The intelligence sub-system is actionable through the Central Florida Investigative Support Center (CFISC).

CFISC represents an innovative concept to combine various information resources into a consolidated source product and to pool resources for increased investigative effectiveness and safety, while reducing investigative costs. The Center will help identify and eliminate overlapping investigations and duplicitous efforts and will act as a catalyst to unite agencies into more effective enforcement groups. Information and inquiries will be provided from participating agencies to the Center. CFISC will query all available databases and collect all relevant information to be assembled by an analytical team.

Multiple information inputs will allow the CFISC to develop a broad and accurate assessment of the criminal activities that affect Central Florida. This information will be disseminated via inquiring agencies in a useful and timely manner. The Center will offer a variety of services to participating members. These services will include, but are not necessarily limited to: NDPIX; NINJAS; Public record checks; Automated criminal intelligence database checks; Intelligence analysis; Transactions & transcriptions analysis; Coordination for Equipment loans; Information/intelligence publications; Graphic capabilities (overheads, charts and graphs); Space for joint conference activities by participating agencies in multi-agency investigations; Training opportunities; Overall Trends, Patterns and Predictions of Organizations and Crimes; and Access to a high tech computer system.

The overall goal of the CFISC is to enhance the ability of agencies to identify, target, arrest and prosecute key members of criminal organizations, by facilitating a rapid and free exchange of information through enhanced coordination and communications. CFISC has been designed to provide a more effective link between intelligence and enforcement and to enhance the abilities of both.

The investigative sub-system is made up of eleven (11) investigative task forces/initiatives located throughout the Central Florida HIDTA area. These task forces drive the strategy through the disruption/dismantling of drug trafficking organizations.

This strategy was formulated due to diverse and regionally unique drug problems throughout the Central Florida HIDTA area. These task forces (including a Money Laundering Task Force and a Fugitive Apprehension Task Force) are regionally specific with the exception of the Methamphetamine Task Force and the Heroin Task Force, which are drug specific. This sub-system operates at several levels with the primary objective and goal of disrupting and dismantling upper level drug trafficking organizations.

The support sub-system consists of the Central Florida HIDTA Management and Coordination initiative, which is responsible for managing and coordinating the Central Florida HIDTA for the Executive Committee. HIDTA funded personnel in this initiative include: the Director (contract), Executive Assistant (HIDTA funded through Seminole County), Financial Analyst (HIDTA funded through Seminole County), and an Receptionist/Administrative Aide (HIDTA funded through the Winter Park Police Department). This sub-system coordinates all activities of the Executive Committee, conducts daily HIDTA business throughout the Central Florida HIDTA and National HIDTA/ONDCP. This sub-system has been responsible for all HIDTA training and maintains inventory control, program evaluation, and tracks all HIDTA funding with the HIDTA Assistance Center in Miami.

Initiatives that were approved to implement the 2000 Central Florida HIDTA Strategy include:

  1. Pinellas County Task Force—The mission of this locally led task force is to reduce the sale and distribution of powder cocaine, crack cocaine, and heroin within and transiting through the Tampa Bay area, specifically Pinellas County and surrounding counties. This task force targets violators and organizations responsible for distributing cocaine and/or heroin in Pinellas and neighboring counties. Their objective is to identify, investigate, obtain evidence and arrest persons affiliated with all drug trafficking organizations. Investigations will be presented to state and/or federal prosecutors for priority prosecution.
  2. Tampa Colombian/South American Drug Trafficking Task Force—The mission of this task force is to reduce the sale and distribution of powder cocaine, crack, and heroin within the Tampa Bay area and neighboring counties. The task force specifically targets members of trafficking organizations responsible for distributing cocaine and/or heroin in these areas. Their objective is to identify, investigate, obtain evidence and arrest persons affiliated with South American drug trafficking organizations and dismantle them. Resulting investigations will be presented to state and/or federal prosecutors for priority prosecution.
  3. Polk County Poly-Drug Task Force—This locally led task force operates within Polk County, as well as neighboring counties. The task force targets street level dealers and attempts to infiltrate those organizations with confidential informants and undercover officers. Their mission is to identify and dismantle organizations involved in the sale of cocaine and methamphetamine throughout the Central Florida area. They coordinate all methamphetamine investigations with the federally led methamphetamine task force to ensure that each investigation is taken to its full potential. The task force also concentrates on the interstate and intrastate shipments of cocaine and methamphetamine and target drug organizations utilizing hotels/motels for the sale of drugs.
  4. Osceola County Poly Drug Task Force—The mission of this task force is to pursue, disrupt, and dismantle organizations involved in the sales and trafficking of narcotics and related violent crimes. This is accomplished by identifying, arresting, and prosecuting narcotic dealers, traffickers, couriers, and the organizations engaged in the illegal transportation of narcotics and narcotic related proceeds. Emphasis is placed on heroin organizations currently established in Osceola County and the greater Orlando area. Multi-agency investigations are coordinated with this fully co-located law enforcement task force consisting of the three local law enforcement agencies within Osceola County. Targets begin with street level narcotic sales and continue to include investigations of illegal importation, sale and diversion of large shipments of narcotics.
  5. City County Investigation Bureau (CCIB) /Seminole County Sheriff's Office—This locally led, fully collocated federal, state, and local law enforcement task force was developed to pursue, attack, disrupt, dismantle, and destroy mid- to upper-level drug trafficking organizations operating in and throughout Seminole County and the Middle District of Florida. The mission of the City County Investigative Bureau is to identify, arrest and vigorously prosecute drug traffickers, their couriers, and members of their organizations engaged in the illegal transportation and distribution of drugs. In addition, enforcement efforts are undertaken to disrupt and destroy money-laundering organizations utilized by drug traffickers, as well as to seize assets and proceeds from the drug trafficking organizations and identify transportation methods used by traffickers. All intelligence collected and processed is disseminated/shared with all other HIDTA participants.
  6. Orange County Poly-Drug Task Force / Metropolitan Bureau of Investigations (MBI)—The mission of this task force is to pursue, disrupt and dismantle poly-drug trafficking and related violent crime organizations. This is accomplished by identifying, arresting and prosecuting narcotics traffickers, couriers, and their associates engaged in the illegal transportation of narcotics and narcotic-related proceeds. The task force places an emphasis on targeting the heroin organizations currently established in the greater Orlando area and on coordinating those investigations with the Central Florida Heroin Task Force. The Orange County Task Force is a fully co-located federal, state, and locally led law enforcement task force consisting of 13 agencies. They conduct multi-jurisdictional investigations ranging from mid-level narcotics sales to the illegal importation, sale, and diversion of large shipments of narcotics and the laundering of illegal drug proceeds. The task force additionally conducts domestic smuggling interdiction operations at Orlando International Airport and at area bus and train stations. Activities are primarily directed toward the interdiction of drug and drug money couriers entering the continental United States from Puerto Rico and those couriers transiting through Orlando on domestic flights.
  7. Volusia County Sheriff's Office—Volusia County has no HIDTA initiative operating at this time. While it was in operation, Volusia County maintained a HIDTA-funded Tex-Mex Marijuana Group. The mission of this group was to conduct long-term complex investigations targeting regional, national, and international marijuana drug trafficking organizations. These drug trafficking organizations were responsible for smuggling large amounts of marijuana from Mexico to Volusia County. This task force, which was led by the Volusia County Sheriff's Office, was operational from July 1998 through the end of 1999. Even though this group is no longer in operation, the Tex-Mex narcotic problem continues to persist.
  8. Fugitive Apprehension Strike Force (FAST)/East Region—The FAST Unit's mission is to synchronize federal, state, and local law enforcement in an aggressive approach to the apprehension and arrest of fugitives wanted for narcotic violations and violent crimes. Fugitives with prior narcotics convictions, violent criminals, and those who use violence as part of their narcotics business are the main focus of these cooperative investigations.
  9. Fugitive Apprehension Strike Force (FAST)/West Region—FAST West addresses the violence associated with drug trafficking, the violation of probation of the crimes will be pursued within the various geographic locations around Tampa Bay, with special emphasis given to cases within the "Weed and Seed" areas of Tampa and Hillsborough County.
  10. The Money Laundering Task Force—The task forces' mission is to target organizations moving money and assets having been derived from illicit drug activities.
  11. The Heroin Task Force—this task force addresses heroin trafficking organizations as an end objective but has manpower specifically dedicated to heroin overdose death investigations
  12. Central Florida Methamphetamine Task Force/Drug Enforcement AgencyTask Force Two/Tampa—The primary mission for this federally led, state and local law enforcement task force is to target major methamphetamine trafficking organizations based in the Central Florida area. This unit is also tasked with responding to requests for assistance from local municipalities that lack the resources to combat an existing methamphetamine threat or laboratory. Additionally, this task force is responsible for developing intelligence information concerning the clandestine manufacture of methamphetamine within Central Florida.

Outcomes:

Organizations
    Disrupted 45
    Dismantled 24
Arrests 2,408 (* Two individuals were licensed physicians.)
Currency Seized $3,081,216.00
Heroin Seized 36.2 pounds
Cocaine Seized 407.28 pounds
Methamphetamine Seized 136.72 pounds
Marijuana Seized 19,434 pounds
Weapons Seized 202
Vehicles Seized 96

Participating Agencies:

Federal: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Internal Revenue Service, United States Attorney's Office, United States Customs Service, United States Marshals Service
State: Florida Department of Law Enforcement; Florida State Attorney's Office
Local: Seminole County Sheriff's Office, Volusia County Sheriff's Office, Osceola County Sheriff's Office, Polk County Sheriff's Office, Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, Orange County Sheriff's Office, Tampa Police Department, St. Petersburg Police Department, Tarpon Springs Police Department, Clearwater Police Department, Largo Police Department, Oviedo Police Department, Winter Springs Police Department, Lake Mary Police Department, Altamonte Springs Police Department, Maitland Police Department

Information is provided by the Central Florida HIDTA.

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260 < Atlanta | Central Valley >