Linn County recently won designation as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, and although this isn't necessarily the sort of thing you advertise on tourism brochures, it's still a welcome development.
That's because the designation will give law officers added resources to battle the commerce in illegal drugs. In particular, it gives officers access to a portion of a $3.4 million grant that covers 13 counties in Oregon and Idaho, as well as the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in Oregon.
And the news got better last week, when officers announced that an interagency team of investigators will have a permanent base in the city's new police headquarters when the structure is completed next year.
The county's designation as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (the acronym is HIDTA, but that doesn't mean you have to use it) should enhance the county's ability to intercept and disrupt drug traffic moving along Interstate 5. That's good.
The fact that the Linn County team (to be named Linn Interagency Narcotics Enforcement, or LINE, which is a better acronym) will be based out of the new Police Department headquarters is an added bonus. (The centralized location was required for the team to be eligible for the federal funding.)
The fact of the matter is that many of these drug investigations involve a number of different law agencies anyway, and working out of the same office will only increase the opportunities to share information and coordinate efforts. Agents from the Albany, Sweet Home and Lebanon police departments will join Oregon State Police, the Linn County Sheriff's Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration in the shared office.
In fact, the only surprising thing about this is how long it took for Linn County to win the high-intensity designation: Until now, the county was the only one in Oregon along Interstate 5 without such a designation. Obviously, drug traffickers do not veer off the interstate just as they get to Linn County, so the designation just serves to confirm what law officers already know: The county has a problem with illegal drugs, and access to federal funds will help the battle.
To win the designation, officials had to show that:
• Linn County is a significant center of drug production.
• Those drug-production activities have a harmful impact on the area.
• Law agencies have committed resources to battle the problem.
We think it's fair to say that Linn County did not have a difficult time checking off any of those boxes.
It helps if you can show that a significant amount of illegal drug traffic is moving through the area. This, also, was not particularly difficult to demonstrate, and not just thanks to Interstate 5; Highway 20 from the Oregon coast also boasts its share of drug trafficking.
While all of this is good news, it should serve as a sobering reminder about the hard work that's still ahead of us in the fight against illegal drugs. Drug cases kept area officers busy last year, with methamphetamine still sadly common and heroin staging an unwelcome comeback. This designation, the funds that go with it and the shared office will be important weapons in the fight.