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Gulf Coast HIDTA

Mission Statement: The mission of the Gulf Coast HIDTA is to measurably reduce the impact of Gulf Coast drug trafficking on other parts of the United States and to measurably reduce violent drug trafficking in its three-state area.

General Information:
Year of Designation: 1996
Geographic Area of Responsibility:
Alabama: Baldwin, Jefferson, Mobile, and Montgomery counties
Louisiana: Caddo, East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, and Orleans Parishes
Mississippi: Hancock, Harrison, Hinds, and Jefferson counties
Contact: (504) 840-1400

Threat Abstract:

The Gulf Coast HIDTA is comprised of 12 counties/parishes in the states of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. The three states are largely rural, agricultural and relatively impoverished. The Gulf Coast HIDTA's geographic location between the southwest border and the eastern seaboard serves as a strategic corridor for drug traffickers transshipping drugs and money to and from eastern and northern parts of the country. Its combination of waterways, deep water ports, railway and highway systems, and airports are used extensively by drug trafficking and smuggling organizations. The growing casino gaming industry in Louisiana and Mississippi is also particularly attractive to drug trafficking organizations as an alternative for money laundering activities.

There are approximately 340 identified international, national and regional drug trafficking organizations operating within the Gulf Coast HIDTA. The drug of choice for consumers remains marijuana, although powder and crack cocaine cause the greatest impact on violent crime, the economy and society. Methamphetamine lab activity has dramatically increased in the last few years particularly in the northern portions of the three states. Heroin use has shown marked increases in some of the metropolitan areas within the HIDTA. Many areas within the three-state HIDTA rank among the top in the nation for occurrences of violent crimes. This trend is attributed directly to drug trafficking and use.

Strategy Abstract:

The Gulf Coast HIDTA strategy addresses the drug problem holistically. This is accomplished through a coordinated effort among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies aimed at a balanced targeting effort on local, regional, national and international drug trafficking/money laundering organizations operating within our area of responsibility. This strategy brings unprecedented synergism and synchronization among law enforcement agencies within the Gulf Coast HIDTA.

Training is another important component of our holistic approach. The ever-changing drug trafficking environment requires continual training opportunities to provide area drug enforcement officers with the latest and most successful investigative techniques available. HIDTA training is free to all participating agencies and is coordinated with other training organizations in the three-state area to provide a balanced instruction location to officers.

The Gulf Coast HIDTA strives to maintain and improve a systematic approach to facilitate cooperative, collaborative law enforcement efforts, balancing direct support to enforcement operations with robust systems that will continue to enhance law enforcement efforts well into the future. The Gulf Coast HIDTA strategy is continually fine-tuned to ensure it addresses the region's ever-changing drug threat. Most recently, this has resulted in a proposal to expand Gulf Coast HIDTA operations into northern Mississippi and northern and western Louisiana to meet the growing threat posed by methamphetamine and violent gang activity. To accurately measure present drug activity and predict future trends, the Gulf Coast HIDTA coordinates among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies the production and publication of a yearly threat assessment. The yearly threat assessment is used to develop our strategy. The strategy is then implemented through the funding of specific initiatives that target aspects of the threat in a multi-agency collocated environment.

Investigative Support Center:

The Gulf Coast HIDTA Intelligence Coordination Network (ICN) serves as the intelligence coordination mechanism for all funded initiatives. Due to the geographic expanse of our initiatives which are dispersed across a three-state area, an innovative method of collecting, analyzing and disseminating actionable intelligence had to be devised; hence the ICN. The core of the network is the Network Coordination Group (NCG) located in Metairie, Louisiana, collocated with the Louisiana Operations Center, another HIDTA funded enforcement initiative. The supervisor of the NCG is a DEA supervisor who oversees analysts who are responsible for the collection and distribution of strategic intelligence among initiatives. The group also coordinates the production of our annual threat assessment. Collocated with the NCG is the Gulf Coast HIDTA intelligence director. The intelligence director serves as the coordinator for all intelligence assets (analysts and intelligence initiatives) dispersed throughout the Gulf Coast HIDTA. He is also responsible for implementation of the General Counterdrug Intelligence Plan in accordance with ONDCP and participating agency guidelines.

Other Gulf Coast HIDTA funded intelligence groups include the FBI led Joint Drug Intelligence Group (JDIG), a part of the Mobile/Baldwin Counties Task Force. It supports ongoing investigations in its area of responsibility and collects and transmits intelligence to the NCG. The BLOC/HIDTA Watch Center is a United States Customs initiative, located in Gulfport, Mississippi. It is a 24-hour/7 day intelligence support center. Analysts provide real-time law enforcement intelligence to all HIDTA initiative and to over 1,700 Customs cross-designated state and local law enforcement officers across a five-state area. They also house a post seizure analysis team that conducts analysis of seizures reported to the center. The center also distributes a daily intelligence summary to law enforcement agencies throughout the country summarizing previous day's seizures.

The exchange of intelligence is accomplished through the Gulf Coast HIDTA wide-area-network (WAN). Using virtual private network technology, the WAN allows for instantaneous, secure transmission of sensitive intelligence data among initiatives along with secure e-mail and other cost saving advantages. The WAN also serves as the communications backbone for the Gulf Coast HIDTA T2S2 digital wire intercept facility located in Metairie, Louisiana. The wire intercept facility provides both HIDTA and non-HIDTA entities the ability to monitor court ordered wiretaps utilizing state-of-the-art digital technology.

Initiatives that were approved to implement the 2000 Gulf Coast HIDTA Strategy include:

  1. Alabama Operations Center—This initiative is comprised of a Major Investigations Team (MIT) that targets major drug trafficking organizations operating in the Montgomery, AL area and a Mobile Deployment Team (MDT) capable of addressing drug trafficking distribution organizations that impact specific neighborhoods. The center houses the offices of the Alabama Director of Operations and a program analyst who oversee the administration of all Gulf Coast HIDTA elements within the State of Alabama.
  2. Louisiana Operations Center—Located in Metairie, LA, this initiative includes a MIT, a MDT, a Financial Investigations Team (FIT), a Surveillance Team (ST), a Technical Operations Group (TOG) and a state-of-the-art digital wire intercept facility. The Management and Coordination Initiative is also collocated in this center. The MIT targets major drug trafficking organizations operating in the Greater New Orleans area. The MDT targets local drug trafficking/distribution organizations operating in area neighborhoods and communities. They also coordinate highway interdiction operations throughout the state. The FIT targets drug smuggling/money laundering activities. The ST provides manned, covert surveillance to initiatives. The TOG coordinates the acquisition of technical surveillance equipment, maintains the GC HIDTA equipment inventory, and accomplishes covert electronic installations. The wire intercept facility, which supports all GC HIDTA elements, is capable of monitoring up to 16 wire intercepts simultaneously.
  3. Mississippi Operations Center—Located in Jackson, MS, this initiative houses a MIT and a MDT. Like the other centers, the MIT targets major drug trafficking/money laundering organizations operating in the Jackson area. The MDT targets local drug trafficking organizations and coordinates highway interdiction efforts. The center also houses the offices of the Mississippi Director of Operations and a program analyst.
  4. Project STAR Task Force—This task force targets the 17 most violent neighborhoods in Jefferson Parish, LA. The task force selects and surveys target neighborhoods to identify residents' perception of the crime problem and solicit aid in the identification of known and suspected drug traffickers. They then target these traffickers for immobilization. The task force coordinates efforts with the Louisiana Operations Center MDT.
  5. New Orleans Gang Task Force—This task force targets violent criminal groups involved in drug trafficking in New Orleans, some with national connections. The task force decimates whole gang organizations through sophisticated investigative techniques and the application of RICO-styled prosecutions in federal and state court.
  6. Greater New Orleans Organized Crime Task Force—This task force targets Asian gangs involved in drug distribution and related violent crime primarily in the New Orleans area. Investigations are aimed at decimating entire Asian criminal organizations. Intelligence information gathered by the task force is shared with other GC HIDTA elements.
  7. Middle Louisiana Drug Task Force—This task force targets major drug trafficking organizations operating in the East Baton Rouge Parish area. Collocated in DEA space, the task force consists of a major investigations team and a transportation interdiction Unit led by a local law enforcement agency.
  8. Caddo/Bossier Drug HIDTA Task Force—This task force targets major drug trafficking organizations operating in the Shreveport area. Additionally, the task force engages in special interdiction operations at commercial terminals. It shares information closely with the Northwest Louisiana Violent Crimes Task Force.
  9. Northwest Louisiana Violent Crimes Task Force—Law enforcement sources trace the beginnings of Louisiana gangs to Shreveport, LA, located in Caddo Parish. The task force focuses on Caddo Parish chapters of national gangs with the goal of developing far-reaching conspiracy prosecutions. Sources-of-supply for gangs are referred to the Caddo/Bossier Task Force. OCDETF prosecutions are a priority.
  10. Tri-County Major Investigations Team—This initiative targets major drug trafficking/money laundering organizations operating in the three county area of Hancock, Harrison and Jackson. It conducts post seizure analysis of highway interdiction stops.
  11. Jefferson County Drug Task Force—This task force targets major drug trafficking organizations operating in and around Birmingham, AL. The task force focuses on methamphetamine distribution in the area, which is increasing dramatically. They also assist area law enforcement in targeted neighborhoods with street-level enforcement. They respond to significant interdiction stops on the highways and at commercial transportation terminals.
  12. Mobile/Baldwin Counties Task Force—This task force targets major drug trafficking/money laundering organizations operating in the Mobile area. They augment drug interdiction efforts at airports, seaports, bus and rail terminals, major highways, and inland waterways directly impacting Mobile and Baldwin counties. Its intelligence team provides support to area law enforcement.
  13. BLOC/HIDTA Watch Center—Located in Gulfport, MS, the Watch Center partners with the collocated United States Customs Service Blue Lightning Operations Center providing all GC HIDTA elements with 24-hour phone communications. The center has access to the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) and provides real-time information from USCS databases. The Watch Center assists in coordinating controlled deliveries and provides post seizure analysis to requesting agencies.
  14. Intelligence Coordination Network—The GC HIDTA Intelligence Coordination Network (ICN) is designed to enhance existing intelligence collection components by coordinating collection and dissemination processes. The mission of the initiative is to facilitate effective and efficient distribution of intelligence among GC HIDTA initiatives. The initiative expedites the flow of pertinent information gathered from the Wiretap Center, Surveillance Team, BLOC/HIDTA Watch Center, Post Seizure Analysis Team, Targeting Team, individual initiatives, and the Mobile/Baldwin Counties Task Force Intelligence Team.
  15. Management and Coordination Initiative—Collocated with the Louisiana Operations Center in Metairie, LA, this initiative provides administrative and programmatic oversight of the GC HIDTA. The initiative is responsible for coordinating the timely submission to ONDCP of required documents, such as the Threat Assessment, Strategy, Initiatives and budgets, and Annual Report. With direction provided by the GC HIDTA Executive Committee, the GC HIDTA Director insures ONDCP and GC HIDTA policies and guidelines are followed.

Outcomes:

The Gulf Coast HIDTA has created an atmosphere of cooperation and collaboration among federal, state, and local law enforcement within the three-state area previously thought unattainable. Through the Executive Committee, heads of major agencies meet periodically to institute regional strategic drug enforcement strategies that are implemented with HIDTA funding. Drug trends have been identified and addressed more rapidly. Resources are readily shared among initiatives resulting in effective and efficient use of manpower and equipment. The synergy created by HIDTA interaction has had an overflow effect on relationships outside the HIDTA umbrella. The Gulf Coast HIDTA has built "systems" such as a wide-area-network and digital wiretap facility that will serve area law enforcement for years to come. A quality training program has provided much needed specialized educational opportunities to law enforcement agencies (LEA). These opportunities have augmented LEA's ability to counter the significant drug threat posed to the area.

Participating Agencies:

Federal: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Internal Revenue Service, Department of Defense Joint Task Force Six, National Park Service, United States Attorney's Office, United States Coast Guard, United States Customs Service, United States Marshal's Service, United States Postal Service

State: Alabama Attorney General's Office, Alabama Bureau of Investigations, Alabama Highway Patrol, Alabama National Guard, Louisiana National Guard, Louisiana State Police, Louisiana Dept. of Economic Development, Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, Mississippi Dept. of Marine Resources, Mississippi Highway Patrol, Mississippi National Guard

Local: Ascension Parish District Attorney's Office, Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office, Baldwin County Sheriff's Office, Baton Rouge Police Department, Bay St. Louis Police Department, Baton Rouge Police Dept., Bessemer Police Dept., Biloxi Police Department, Birmingham Police Department, Bossier City Police Department, Bossier Parish Sheriff's Office, Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office, Daphne Police Department, East Baton Rouge Police Department, Fairfield Police Department, Fairhope Police Department, Foley Police Department, Gonzales Police Dept., Gulf Shores Police Department, Gulfport Police Department, Hancock County Sheriff's Office, Harrison County Sheriff's Office, Jackson County Sheriff's Office, Jackson Municipal Airport Authority, Jackson Police Department, Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Office, Madison County Sheriff's Office, Mobile County Sheriff's Office, Mobile Police Department, Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, Montgomery Police Department, New Orleans Police Department, Pascagoula Police Department, Pritchard Police Department, Orange Beach Police Department, Orleans Parish Levee Board Police Dept., Rankin County Sheriff's Office, Saraland Police Dept., Shreveport Police Department

Information is provided by the Gulf Coast HIDTA.

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