Fort Bend County’s war on drugs has just gained a valuable ally--the community itself. Last Wednesday, May 11, officials with the Houston HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) gathered to unveil new websites for Fort Bend and Walker counties to combat the distribution and sale of illegal narcotics in the counties.
The StopDrugs Website Project is meant to add value to the communities it serves by providing a resource where citizens can submit anonymous tips, find prevention and educational material and stay informed of possible drug threats on the streets of their community.
Houston’s HIDTA is one of five original HIDTAs designated by Congress and one of 32 across the country. The city’s HIDTA now consists of 19 counties running along the coastline of Texas. Websites have already been in operation for Harris, Victoria, Montgomery and Jefferson counties among others.
Houston’s HIDTA board consists of 20 law enforcement agency heads from the state, local and federal agencies.
Federal agencies for Houston’s HIDTA include:
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
- Homeland Security Investigations
- U.S. Attorney’s Office (East District of Texas)
- U.S. Attorney’s Office (South District of Texas)
- U.S. Marshal’s Office (East District)
- U.S. Marshal’s Office (South District)
- U.S. Postal Inspection Service
State/local agencies include:
- Texas DPS
- Corpus Christi Police Department
- Harris County District Attorney’s Office
- Victoria County Sheriff’s Office
- Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office
- Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office
- Pasadena Police Department
Approximately 1,750 anonymous tips have been received via existing StopDrugs websites since their launch in September of 2015. HIDTA is attempting to establish a mechanism by which the communities it serves are able to effectively communicate with law enforcement agencies to curb drug issues and aid in fugitive apprehension.
Unique to the StopDrugs websites is that when a tip is submitted, it is not submitted solely to the office with local jurisdiction. A HIDTA analyst working behind the scenes also receives the tip and runs it through a database to determine if an operation should be conducted by local authorities or if it is part of a larger operation.
Houston HIDTA Director Mike McDaniel said that has been the case more than a few times already. “It’s been amazing to see how many of those tied into bigger investigations and even some related to drug trafficking organizations operating on an international basis. It’s also led to the apprehension of seven fugitives,” he said. While aiding authorities may be primarily what catches the eye of the public on the surface, the StopDrugs websites additionally serve to aid parents, educators and community coalitions with their missions to create a drug-free community.
Lisa Poynor, CEO of the Fort Bend Regional Council on Substance Abuse, says the drug problem overpowers communities, and the StopDrugs websites are tremendous assets to the battle for eradication as well as education.
“You’re going to be able to use this website to find help for individuals, family members, to receive education for schools and parents, and most of all to find treatment,” she said. Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls spoke briefly at the conference, praising the initiative as a key addition the county’s toolbox in curbing drug activity.“We’re very proud to partner here with HIDTA here in the greater Houston area and we look forward to continuing to build on this relationship,” Nehls said. “We feel this initiative is a very good tool to help identify drug trafficking and reduce drugs within Fort Bend County.
Fort Bend County’s site went live Thursday, May 12 and has already received tips on drug incidents. The website provides directions on how to send a tip and what to look for in generating tips.
All tips to StopDrugsFortBendCounty.org are anonymous and go directly to the Fort Bend County Drug Task Force members, which include the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office, Missouri City Police Department, Rosenberg Police Department, Richmond Police Department and Sugar Land Police Department.
Houston-area residents can go to the following existing websites to report any drug-related activities in their local jurisdictions: