County law enforcement earns special designation from White House

A two-year effort by Anderson County Law Enforcement Command staff has resulted in the designation by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy of Anderson County as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area county.

HIDTA is a federal program created in 1988 to align funding and other resources with high-intensity drug-trafficking areas. This comes as a result of formal applications submitted by Anderson County law enforcement agencies.

The announcement was made at a news conference in Clinton Tuesday.

The application was based principally upon the location of Interstate 75 in Anderson County and the demonstrated success of the Seventh Judicial Crime Task Force in narcotics-fighting operations.

HIDTA counties essentially define the working and grant spending areas of HIDTA-funded task forces.

For instance, the Drug Enforcement Administration and FBI both manage separate HIDTA task forces in the East Tennessee HIDTA counties. Most of the counties in metropolitan Knoxville are HIDTA counties.

However, securing HIDTA designation was not the ultimate goal.

Rather, securing HIDTA designation for Anderson County was a necessary step for obtaining a grant for Appalachia HIDTA funding of a new locally led task force in Anderson County.

The 7th CTF is an existing state sanctioned task force that became the applicant for the AHIDTA designation and grant funding. No locally led HIDTA task force can exist without a designated federal partner and in consultation with many of the federal partners, it was determined that ATF would join this task force and assign a full-time agent.

This was not an adversarial but rather a cooperative process as U S Attorney J. Douglas Overbey, the FBI and the DEA all joined in endorsing our application to AHIDTA and the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation was also a joint applicant.

The designation of Anderson County as an AHIDTA county actually was made in September but we have delayed that announcement until we had final work that the 7th CTF application to become an AHIDTA task force was also awarded.

Wo, what does it mean that the 7th CTF has been designated as an AHIDTA task force? It means funding, but the funding is actually secondary. The ability to work daily with the ATF will mean so much to local agents who will, as a result, have access to ATF guidance and criminal intelligence resources.

Being part of the AHIDTA organization means there are criminal intelligence, IT specialists and other human resources at the HHIDTA headquarters in Kentucky that will be supporting efforts in Anderson County.

It means that there will be access to AHIDTA covert equipment. It means that there will be specialized AHIDTA training for our agents. It also means the 7th CTF joins a network of HIDTA task forces and agents that may assist one another in criminal investigations.

AHIDTA designation also means funding. There will be access to funding for overtime for agents, travel, law enforcement equipment, as well as money to run undercover operations.

“We have a group of special leaders in our Anderson County law enforcement community who believe that they and their departments work best when they work together. That attitude has solved and prevented crimes in Anderson County and this AHIDTA designation means that we can take that collaborative approach to a whole new level with even more partners. We expect it will make Anderson County a better and safer place to live,” District Attorney General Dave Clark said.

Particular thanks and recognition are due to Lt. Dannielle Alexander of the Clinton Police Department who played a large role in preparing our most recent AHIDTA application, to Clinton Police Chief Vaughn Becker who led our 2019 application effort and to former Clinton Police Chief Rick Scarbrough, who was instrumental in moving us toward the original conception of this idea of applying for and becoming a locally led AHIDTA task force. In addition, we are particularly grateful to the ATF for believing in this effort and for being willing to support it during a two-year application process.

This was an innovative initiative. No other drug task force in Tennessee has been awarded an AHIDTA grant.

“I am very proud of our leadership team for thinking outside of the box and in looking for smart ways to make our communities safer and be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. We are more excited than we can convey, but in short believe that this development has the potential to be transformative in what we are able to do in Anderson County to protect and serve our communities. It has the potential of being the single most important development of making Anderson County safer in my law enforcement career,” Clark said.

The Appalachia HIDTA is one of the nation’s regional HIDTA organizations that covers the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia with a mission to enhance and coordinate drug enforcement efforts of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies within areas designated as High Intensity Drug Trafficking areas by pursuing the disruption/dismantlement of Drug Trafficking Organizations, particularly as it relates to the specific drug threat of the Appalachian region.