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Three Western PA Counties Designated As High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas

Office of National Drug Control Policy
Map of High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. The map does not include HIDTA counties designated after May 2018.

Allegheny, Beaver and Washington counties will receive additional money to combat illegal activity related to the opioid epidemic as part of their recent High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area classification.

There are currently 29 such areas in the country. The western Pennsylvania trio of counties will become part of the Ohio area, based in suburban Cleveland.

The designation from the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy means an area is considered a center for drug-related activities, which have a significant impact that extends to other parts of the United States. It comes with $1 million of federal funding a year for two years.

Joseph Moses, acting assistant special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Pittsburgh District Office said the money can be used to create new or support existing task forces, buy equipment or train canine officers, for example.

“It’s designed to facilitate cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement, enhance law enforcement intelligence sharing, which is key, provide reliable law enforcement intelligence to law enforcement agencies and to support coordinated law enforcement strategies," Moses said.

The other four Pennsylvania counties classified as part of a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area are Philadelphia, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware.

Anaylsis from the Pew Charitible Trusts found that in 2016, Allegheny County had the highest rate of opioid overdose deaths out of all U.S. counties with populations of more than 1 million people, with 50.2 deaths per every 10,000 residents. The second-highest was Philadelphia County. 

Allegheny County had 735 overdose deaths in 2017.

Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio where she covered a range of issues, including the 2016 Iowa Caucuses.