What is the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program?

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A High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) is a designation of the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). As of 2019, there are 28 HIDTAs, which cover about 18 percent of U.S. counties in 49 states, plus Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. These areas include about 66 percent of the US population.

The HIDTA program has existed since 1988, when it was created through the federal Anti-Drug Abuse Act. It is intended “to reduce drug trafficking and production.” The program gives assistance to law enforcement agencies at various levels that operate in “critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States.” The agencies can be federal, state, local, or tribal. The HIDTA proram is a grant program that the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) operates, with an annual budget of about $250 million. The DEA role is crucial in the program, which has almost 600 dedicated special agent positions. Each HIDTA has a local-level executive board that has equal numbers of federal and non-federal law enforcement leaders.

The programs goals and functions include facilitating cooperation among law enforcement agencies in sharing information and implementing coordinated enforcement activities; providing intelligence that will facilitate designing effective enforcement strategies and operations; and maximizing the use of available resources to reduce the supply of illegal drugs—not only in those areas, but in the entire United States.

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