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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein joined United States Attorney Justin Herdman, federal and local law enforcement officials today to announce a new strike force to target drug trafficking and violent crime in Cleveland.
The Cleveland Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Strike Force will bring together more than 200 local police, federal agents and prosecutors to work side-by-side to strengthen public safety. The strike force’s mission will be to disrupt and dismantle major criminal organizations and their subsidiaries trafficking narcotics, weapons, humans and the proceeds of their crimes. Cooperative investigations will be focused on dissolving these organizations, their financial infrastructure, and the violence that accompanies their activities.
“This Strike Force brings our best federal and local law enforcement talents together in a united front to take the fight to the streets of Cleveland and to stop this drug-fueled violence in its tracks,” said Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein. “It’s an honor to join U.S. Attorney Herdman, the city of Cleveland and the many federal and local law enforcement leaders partnering in this effort.”
“The Strike Force will increase sharing of intelligence so we can more quickly and effectively target drug trafficking organizations and the groups responsible for armed robberies, shootings and other violent crime in Cleveland and the outlying suburbs,” U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said.
The strike force will target violent street gangs involved in retaliatory homicides, carjackings, commercial robberies and other violent activities, as well as people and organizations involved in trafficking opioids, which has fueled the overdose epidemic plaguing Ohio. This includes focusing on interdicting packages containing drugs traveling via the U.S. mail, as well as investigations focused on online drug trafficking.
Participating agencies include: FBI, DEA, HSI, IRS, ATF, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Marshals Service, Cleveland Division of Police, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Border Patrol, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Ohio High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and the Independence Police Department. Several other area law enforcement agencies have agreed to participate in the Strike Force as well.
Police officers, agents and both federal and state prosecutors will work together in open workspace. Both the physical and organizational structure will lead to collaborative, centralized intelligence sharing. Wire rooms will also be located at the building so intelligence and information can be shared in real time.
The Strike Force will be jointly led by the FBI and DEA. The U.S. Attorney will serve as chair of Strike Force Executive Council.
“The creation of the Cleveland Strike Force is an exciting time for law enforcement and a valuable tool to help protect our citizens and hold criminals accountable,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony. “Combining under one roof the unique skills, talents and capabilities of the participating agencies will enable us to better address the wide variety of significant drug and violent crime threats facing our community. The FBI is fully committed to help lead this critical new initiative with substantial resources, equipment and technology.”
DEA Special Agent in Charge Timothy Plancon said: “As a part of the Cleveland OCDETF Strike Force, we are committed to a long-term partnership that allows law enforcement to reduce the illegal drug supply by aggressively targeting criminal organizations operating throughout northern Ohio. Drug trafficking and violence go hand-in-hand, which is why federal, state and local law enforcement are making these dangerous drug trafficking organizations a top priority. By working with our partners, we are able to leverage resources that bring these violent individuals to justice and improve the safety of our communities. We are focused on the current opioid epidemic, but this initiative is ready to adapt to any future drug threat facing northern Ohio.”
“Crime, particularly violent crime, challenges our quality of life and affects our ability to create a great city with a sustainable future,” said Mayor Frank G. Jackson. “The addition of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force will help us more effectively fight drug problems and violent crime.”
“Here in Northeast Ohio, we are fortunate to have strong and lasting law enforcement partnerships at the local, state and federal levels,” said Cleveland Police Chief Calvin D. Williams. “The implementation of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force will further enhance our efforts to reduce drug trafficking and gun violence.”
The cost of the build-out, rent, equipment and support costs will be paid by the Justice Department. The Strike Force is expected to be operational by mid-2019.