RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced on Tuesday that Virginia has joined the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Heroin Task Force (NEMA-HTF.)
The organization is a first-of-its kind task force that fosters cross-state collaboration and leverages resources to combat heroin distribution and the rise in heroin overdose fatalities.
The Task Force uses collaboration and information sharing between state attorneys general and other law enforcement officials to combat the spread of heroin. By bringing each agency’s unique experience, methodology, analytical techniques and technologies, officials say joining forces will allow for more targeted investigation and prosecution of drug rings and pipelines.
“This partnership provides Virginia’s state and local law enforcement agencies with an additional means of leveraging the investigative and prosecutorial resources beyond our borders,” said Col. W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Successfully combating heroin distribution, use and overdoses requires a collaborative and comprehensive approach by public safety agencies and prosecutors at the local, state and federal levels.”
The Commonwealth of Virginia, through the Office of Attorney General and Virginia State Police, is the seventh state to join the Task Force, which also includes New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland and Maine.
“The heroin epidemic doesn’t recognize borders and it’s more important than ever to coordinate with Virginia’s neighbors to stop the influx of heroin,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “We’re in this together, and by sharing information and collaborating on leads we’re better equipped to dismantle large-scale drug operations that are trying to profit off of addiction. Traffickers and dealers can’t hide behind borders.”
Officials say that Virginia’s geographic location and makeup of large cities, ports, high volume highways and transportation hubs make it vulnerable to drug trafficking activities. There are several designated High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) in Virginia including areas in Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, Roanoke and Southwest Virginia.
This unique agreement falls under the “Prosecutions and Partnerships” category of Attorney General Herring’s Five Point Plan to Combat Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse announced in September 2014.