Data Would Be Available from Western NY to Suffolk County & Could Help Law Enforcement, Public Health Officials & Treatment Centers Fight Heroin Scourge.
New York, NY - May 22, 2014 - Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that the President’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has agreed to meet with state and local government officials from New York within the next 30-60 days to determine how to create a statewide database, proposed by Schumer, to track heroin and other drug-related crimes. In a letter to Schumer, the ONDCP committed to convene a meeting with experts from their office, as well as the Director of the NY/NJ High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), to work with state and local officials on a framework for the database. Earlier this year on a press conference call, Schumer called on the ONDCP to work with localities to set up “DrugStat,” a first-ever statewide information-sharing program that would track heroin and other drug-related crimes and specifically asked that the ONDCP help provide expert guidance to smaller localities on how to set up an information-sharing database. Law enforcement has consistently cited the lack of accessible data as a problem in combatting the recent epidemic of heroin abuse. Schumer explained that this meeting is a critical first step in creating a statewide data-sharing program that will allow law enforcement officials to identify patterns, crack down on heroin rings across county lines, target resources to high-crime areas, determine which types of drugs are the most sought after, and determine necessary security changes in drug distribution networks. In addition, Schumer pointed to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Harold Rogers Prescription Drug Monitoring Program grants, which are prescribed for data-driven solutions to crime, as a possible source of grant funding for counties to access to help them set up their databases.
“A meeting between New York state and local government officials and the experts at the ONDCP is a critical first step in the creation of a statewide database to help law enforcement crack down on heroin and other drug-related crime. We need every tool in our toolbox to fight this rising tide of heroin abuse – data and information-sharing between law enforcement is a really important one,” said Schumer. “So I’m glad the ONDCP heeded my call to provide their expertise and guidance to local and state officials on how to get the ball rolling on a statewide data-sharing, so law enforcement can begin to track patterns across county lines.
Schumer continued, “Now that we know DOJ’s Harold Rogers Prescription Drug Monitoring Program grants are available to help counties start tracking and sharing data, I am encouraging New York counties to apply for these grants, and I will support their applications every step of the way. We simply need to do more to prevent our young people from falling into the grips of heroin and drug abuse. Giving law enforcement the data they need to better prevent drugs from coming into our communities is something we should all get behind.”
Earlier this year on a conference call, Schumer asked that the ONCDP work with New York State law enforcement to expand the RxStat program, currently running in New York City, to all of New York and to include substances beyond prescription drugs, such as cocaine and heroin. The RxStat database is a part of the larger COMPStat (computer or comparative statistics) program that is run by the NYC Police Department to track evolving all drug and crime data, has proven successful in lowering crime in New York City, and has been replicated across the country. Schumer asked that ONDCP help the state and locals create a framework that interested localities can use to establish such databases, and said that the feds should provide technical support and training during that implementation process.
Today, Schumer released a copy of the ONDCP’s response to Schumer’s letter, which confirmed that they would convene a meeting to achieve exactly these ends. The ONDCP replied, “As a result of your request, I have asked Mr. Chauncey Parker, the Director of the New York/New Jersey HIDTA, to convene a meeting with New York State and local government officials to determine how to develop the type of state-wide database that is described in your letter…Researchers from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) will participate in this meeting, and we will invite our Federal partners who can provide their expertise and examples of best practices in data collection.” Schumer called this meeting a critical first step in getting localities interested in establishing databases, and also in laying out a framework for how this information would be shared between counties. The ONDCP offered to provide examples of best practices in data collection, which Schumer said should focus on how counties could collect and codify data in such a way that it would be easily shareable across county lines.
Schumer pointed to the rise in Rx drug abuse as one of the prime factors fueling the growth in heroin use, as heroin has become a cheaper, more accessible alternative to prescription narcotics. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), heroin seizures are up 67% over the past four years and there has been a 59% increase in heroin charges over the same period. In 2013, the DEA’s New York office seized 144 kilograms of heroin, worth roughly $43 million, which is 20% of the DEA’s nationwide seizures. In Long Island, the past two years have seen the two highest ever recorded totals of heroin deaths – nearly 250 combined in 2012-2013.
In addition to technical expertise and guidance, Schumer identified a possible funding source for counties to apply for to help them set up their individual databases. Specifically, Schumer pointed to the DOJ’s Harold Rogers Prescription Drug Monitoring Program grants, which helped NYC fund similar data-driven solutions to combat drug abuse.
A copy of the ONDCP’s letter in response to Schumer appears below:
Thank you for your March 5, 2014, letter regarding the need for a state-level data collection and analysis system that would provide timely and detailed information on drug usage rates, overdose deaths, and drug-related crimes in New York State. I appreciate your ongoing support of national, state, and local efforts to reduce drug use and its consequences; and I agree that improvements to our current data collection systems are key to improving public health and safety.
As a result of your request, I have asked Mr. Chauncey Parker, the Director of the New York/New Jersey HIDTA, to convene a meeting with New York State and local government officials to determine how to develop the type of state-wide database that is described in your letter. Mr. Parker has agreed to host this meeting within the next 30-60 days. Researchers from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) will participate in this meeting, and we will invite our Federal partners who can provide their expertise and examples of best practices in data collection. I invite you or a member of your staff to participate in this upcoming meeting.
I am hopeful that a new state-level data and analysis collection system can be developed in New York State and serve as a model for other states. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with you on this important initiative.
Michael P. Botticelli