U.S. designates Northern Idaho county as drug-trafficking area
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U.S. designates Northern Idaho county as drug-trafficking area

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BOISE, Idaho — Federal officials on Thursday announced that a northern Idaho county with a drug-trafficking problem will be included in a regional enforcement network and will face a crackdown.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration designated Kootenai County as part of the Idaho/Oregon High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

The designation means law enforcement agencies will get federal grant money, and that federal, state, local and tribal police will be better able to coordinate activities and share information.

"We will focus on drug traffickers, not users," said Idaho State Police Capt. John Kempf. "Dealers - people who make money off the misery of people who are addicted to drugs."

Authorities said drug traffickers transporting marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and other drugs use eastbound Interstate 90 to transport drugs from the West Coast and U.S. Route 95 to move drugs north and south.

"Those are both thoroughfares for drug traffickers and drug runners," said Lt. Ryan Higgins of the Kootenai County sheriff's office. Some of the drugs end up in local communities, he said.

Marijuana is illegal in Idaho, and Interstate 90 cuts across one of the shortest stretches of Idaho, a span of less than 100 miles. Oregon and Washington allow recreational use of marijuana and it is legal in Montana for medical purposes. Authorities said much of the marijuana crossing Idaho is destined for states east of the Mississippi River.

Kempf said Kootenai County has had the most illegal drug seizures in Idaho in recent years. It has included methamphetamine produced in Mexico.

Higgins and Kempf said limited budgets for enforcement probably means most drug traffickers cross through Idaho without getting stopped. Both said grant money would help with increased efforts to arrest drug traffickers and seize illegal drugs.

Ada and Canyon counties in southwestern Idaho and Bannock County in eastern Idaho are already part of the Idaho and Oregon regional enforcement network. Each of those counties has interstate highways going through them. Oregon has 11 counties in the network, plus the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has designated 28 "High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas" that include about 18% of the nation's counties and 66% of the U.S. population.

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