High Intensity Drug Trafficking AreaInternational
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Northwest HIDTA

Mission Statement: The mission of the Northwest HIDTA is to measurably reduce drug trafficking, money laundering and drug related violent crimes and reduce demand by supporting treatment and effective demand reduction programs.

General Information:
Year of Designation: 1997
Geographic Area of Responsibility:
Washington: Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, King, Pierce, Thurston, Yakima counties
Contact: Director Dave Rodriguez, telephone 206-352-3600
Email: drodriguez@nw.hidta.org

Threat Abstract:

The Northwest HIDTA drug threats include heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana and cocaine. "Nazi" type methamphetamine labs are proliferating throughout the region. Law enforcement, environmental and health resources are straining to meet the demands posed by the emerging methamphetamine crisis. Heroin distribution and consumption remains a significant problem. The importation of Mexican black tar heroin supplies by organized drug trafficking organizations remains at high levels, and the prices remain low.

Smuggling at the US/Canadian border is on the increase. Potent Canadian-grown marijuana is in demand throughout the United States creating increasing cross-border smuggling events. Shipments of Asian heroin may transit through Puget Sound's commercial port facilities with ultimate distribution in U.S cities on the eastern seaboard. More than 300 small islands provide Washington with 3026 miles of internal shoreline increasing the maritime smuggling potential. Maritime drug seizures in these waters are on the increase.

Heroin use continues to have the largest impact of all illicit drugs used in the Seattle area, in terms of drug-related deaths, emergency department episodes and criminal justice involvement. Methamphetamine use is on an upward trend in other areas of the state. Statewide methamphetamine treatment program admissions increased more than 1000% during the period 1992 to the first half of 1998. Marijuana remains readily available, and recent school surveys indicate a sharp increase in use among school children in this state when compared to several years ago and to national averages.

Strategy Abstract:

The Northwest HIDTA's initiatives blend a variety of law enforcement and demand reduction initiatives into a unitized approach to countering the drug threat in Pacific Northwest. The focus is upon five mutually supportive disciplines, which are Intelligence, Investigations, Interdiction, Education and Prevention. In the seven county service area, there are eight Byrne Grant-funded, multi-jurisdictional narcotics task forces. There are also four DEA task forces, and one city/county task force. Each agency has an individual strategy, requirements, and mission addressing drug trafficking. The FY 2000 Threat Assessment identified 60 drug trafficking organizations posing a criminal threat in the seven HIDTA counties. The enforcement initiatives focus upon disrupting and dismantling drug and money laundering organizations.

Our initiatives stress the enhancement, partnership and co-location of multi-jurisdictional task forces in critical locations within the HIDTA service area. These groups will concentrate enforcement activities against major poly-drug trafficking organizations with particular emphasis on the key substances of methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and marijuana.

The Northwest HIDTA coordinates and synchronizes efforts already underway by providing investigative support and intelligence information services to those task forces. The delivery of intelligence support data to the additional Byrne Grant task forces in Washington, as well as, all drug law enforcement agencies is a secondary goal. Additionally, our goal is to achieve a reduction in the crime categories closely associated with drug abusers and to maintain safe communities.

The Northwest HIDTA support initiatives include those efforts promoting drug education, drug courts and building community coalitions with HIDTA funds.

Investigative Support Center:

The mission of the Investigative Support Center is to assist the partnership of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in meeting the goals and objectives of the National Drug Control Strategy by providing critical intelligence information and investigative support services.

The services offered by the ISU illustrate both strategic and tactical intelligence responsiveness. The ISU prepares a regional strategic overview and presents the data in a threat analysis document. Task force initiatives are crafted to meet the threat. All initiatives have procedures to utilize the Northwest HIDTA's intelligence system.

The Investigative Support Center (ISC) is composed of four main units: The Administrative Unit, the Technical Equipment Unit; the Analytical Unit and the Information Services Unit. Within the Information Services Unit is the Watch Center function which handles critical event deconfliction and information research.

Specific drug trafficking organizations are identified through the threat assessment data collection process and intelligence profiles are developed on each. In this manner, the intelligence process identifies problems and helps focus efforts of HIDTA enforcement programs against Drug Trafficking Organizations. Threat Assessment preparation is a primary responsibility of the staff of the Information Services Unit. Analytical case support is presented in a variety of methodologies and varies depending on the needs and complexity of a criminal investigation. Each analyst is able to conduct in-depth research with the databases available in the ISC. Sophisticated charts and graphs are completed to assist the understanding of each investigation and graphical displays are made for court presentation if required.

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

  1. Washington State Patrol (WSP) Pro-Active Methamphetamine Team—this clandestine laboratory team responded to 47% of the illicit drug labs found in the State of Washington during 1999. Two of Western Washington's counties (Pierce and King) have law enforcement agencies with clandestine lab teams and they are constrained to operate within their county areas. The Washington State Patrol's SIRT Team assumes a more regional responsibility and responds to the remaining 37 counties whenever there is a clandestine laboratory involved.
  2. Thurston County Narcotics Task Force—addresses the local poly-drug problems in Thurston County surrounding the State's Capital. The most significant drugs are methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. Enforcement outcomes in this County (and adjoining Pierce County) may be quantified by what appears to be the southerly displacement of clandestine laboratory operators into adjoining Lewis County. Lewis County is out of the HIDTA's area of responsibility.
  3. HIDTA Tacoma Region Task Force—coordinates the collocated efforts of the DEA, Tacoma Police Department and the Pierce County Sheriff's Office against traffickers of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana. Pierce County is believed to lead the State in the number of operating methamphetamine labs and has two clandestine lab teams that responded to 41% of the drug labs registered in Washington State last year. Their efforts are directed against trafficking organizations operating in the region.
  4. HIDTA Integrated Task Force—a multi-agency collocated integrated task force formed in 1999 and intended to be the centerpiece group of the HIDTA enforcement program. This is a DEA sponsored initiative with several components. It has a multi-agency money laundering squad working out of the Intelligence Center. A transportation squad is located near the airport and a multi agency general enforcement group works out of the main DEA building. Enforcement operations take place throughout the entire HIDTA region.
  5. Snohomish County Regional Narcotics Task Force—this multi-agency initiative rapidly advanced on the heroin, cocaine and marijuana drug trafficking organizations operating in Snohomish County. Plans were developed during 1999 for the collocated task force to double in size during January 2000 by a merger with the Everett Police Department's Narcotics Unit. This task force exemplifies the HIDTA concept of being fully integrated and co-located and operating at peak efficiency.
  6. Northwest HIDTA Border Task Force—a multi-agency collocated task force responding to increases in drug smuggling on the US/Canadian border. A tactical intelligence group was formed under this initiative. Multi-agency border enforcement teams were developed and deployed in partnership with Canadian authorities. Both sides of the border are worked by this model of international law enforcement cooperation called "IBET" - Integrated Border Enforcement Team. The initiative funds a State Prosecutor to handle border arrests requiring State prosecution.
  7. Northwest HIDTA Yakima County Task Force—three separate collocated multi-agency enforcement groups operate under this task force effort. The multi-agency task forces operate in Yakima County, which is a semi-rural area. The initiative included the development of a encrypted microwave communications system that linked the three taskforces operating in a jurisdiction that is nearly 40 miles long. Long standing drug trafficking groups bring heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana into the region for consumption and redistribution.
  8. Investigative Support Center—a collocated intelligence initiative brings members from several agencies together in office space provided by DEA. The program's components include full intelligence analyst support on investigations, information research, strategic research on general threat topics or specialized situations, post seizure analysis and document exploitation, critical event deconfliction and the loan of specialized electronic evidence gathering equipment. Several drug-related training programs are offered yearly to all law enforcement officers.
  9. Community Coalition Support Initiative—this initiative provides resources to substance abuse prevention coalitions in each Northwest HIDTA county in order to develop a region-wide demand reduction strategy in collaboration with law enforcement agencies and others. It promotes collaborative outreach and engagement of communities at a neighborhood level, and is based on the identification and understanding of the risk and protective factors associated with the availability, use and on-going abuse of drugs by children and adults.
  10. Drug Court Development—this initiative provides resources to Drug Court programs in each Northwest HIDTA county. It coordinates and leverages resources in order to enhance the capacity of such programs to provide individualized treatment and services to chronic, career drug offenders who are to be adjudicated for drug-related crimes.
  11. Public Education/Awareness Initiative—this initiative provides resources for the presentation and dissemination of substantiated, factual information to the media, parents, teachers, clergy, health professionals, business and community leaders and the general public about the drugs comprising the Northwest HIDTA Threat Assessment, with particular emphasis on marijuana and methamphetamine.
  12. MIS/Evaluation—this initiative provides resources for a regional management information system to facilitate standardized, regional evaluation strategies for the Drug Court programs. It provides a means for evaluating the HIDTA-supported substance abuse prevention projects. Currently networked Drug Court jurisdictions will benefit from an interface with the enhanced TARGET system and the Judicial Information System operated by the State of Washington.


Law enforcement agencies have benefited from the services and operational funding provided through the Northwest HIDTA program. The HIDTA program has either fostered the formation of drug task forces in jurisdictions where they formerly did not exist before or allowed the enlargement of existing ones. These force-multipliers resulted in greater interdiction successes against drug trafficking organizations. The collaboration of law enforcement and prevention/treatment or educational resources allowed the formation of mutually beneficial community outreach programs. The first money laundering task force was established in the region and federal, state and local agencies are now able to move more effectively against illicit criminal proceeds.

Under a new initiative component, Northern border arrests may be referred to a HIDTA-funded Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in the Whatcom County State court system.

Drug court development was expanded into the remaining HIDTA counties. The newly developed drug courts should augment enforcement and interdiction subsystems. HIDTA-supported Drug Court Services were provided to nearly 600 program participants during the year and may have a beneficial affect on the rate of recidivism, reduced crimes against people and property and increased public safety.

The Community Coalition Support demand reduction programs involved nearly 200 community events. These were attended by over 10,000 people and enabled the direct delivery of anti-drug abuse messages and direct support to individuals and families.

Participating Agencies:

Federal: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Yakima Tribal Police, Drug Enforcement Administration Offices, Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, Internal Revenue Service, Department of Defense Joint Task Force Six, United States Border Patrol, United States Coast Guard, 13th District, Seattle, United States Customs Service, United States Marshal's Service

State: Washington State Patrol, Statewide Incident Response Team (SIRT)

Local: Bellingham Police Department, Blaine Police Department, Bonny Lake Police Department, Buckley Police Department, Bellevue Police Department, Everett Police Department, Federal Way Department of Public Safety, Grandview Police Department, Granger Police Department, King County Sheriff's Office, Lacey Police Department, Mill Creek Police Department, Marysville Police Department, Olympia Police Department, Pierce County Sheriff's Office, Port of Seattle Police Department, Puyallup Police Department, Seattle Police Department, Sumner Police Department, Tacoma Police Department, Thurston County Sheriff's Office, Tumwater Police Department, Union Gap Police Department, Whatcom County Sheriff's Office, Yakima Police Department, Yakima Sheriff's Office

Other: Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, Thurston Prosecuting Attorney, King County Department of Public Health, King County Department of Judicial Administration, Pierce County Alliance, Pierce County Human Services, Pierce County Superior Court, Skagit County Human Services, Skagit County Superior Court, Skagit Recovery Services, Snohomish County Community Mobilization, Snohomish County Superior Court, Thurston County Superior Court, TOGETHER!, University of Washington, Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney, Whatcom County Superior Court, Washington State Lieutenant Governor's Office, Washington National Guard Counterdrug Program, Yakima County Superior Court, Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney, Yakima County Community Network, Washington Drug Free Business, Washington State Alcohol/Drug Helpline and Clearinghouse, Washington State Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development, Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Information is provided by the Northwest HIDTA.

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