Lincoln County will receive more federal money to fight drugs, Sen. Ben Nelson announced Wednesday.Lincoln County is a now a federally-designated high intensity drug trafficking area, based on its number of violent drug crimes, drug violations as well as its location on major highways, Nelson said.
In 2010, Lincoln County law enforcement agencies reported 69 violent crimes and 352 drug abuse violations, Nelson noted.
Also, six gangs have been identified in Lincoln County with ties to drug distribution, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The money should begin to arrive in 30-60 days, according to Sgt. Eric Rice of the Nebraska State Patrol. Rice coordinates the CODE (Cooperative Drug Enforcement) task force in 22 west central Nebraska counties.
Rice said gang activity not pervasive but it’s common for drug dealers to be affiliated with a gang. Some Nebraska gangs are relatively small spin-offs from larger gangs on the West Coast.
Lincoln County is the crossroads of Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 83 -- major transportation routes for the distribution of narcotics across the country. And, North Platte is home to the world’s largest railroad yard -- which provides another route of access for transporting illegal substances, Nelson noted.
Dawson County has also been declared a high intensity drug trafficking area, Rice said.
Rice said the money will assist the CODE task force with investigations and presence.
“It’s hard to say how bad the problem is,” he said. “We’ve noticed a little reduction the last couple of months, but it always goes up and down.”
The CODE task force is Nebraska’s largest crime fighting organization. There are 54 agencies involved, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Agency.
The CODE task force is known for arresting a bevy of offenders at one time, especially in late 2010 and throughout 2011.
In mid-February 2011, the CODE force arrested 23 people in Lincoln County. In late-August, the force made another 15 arrests, sweeping a wider area. including Frontier, Dawson and Red Willow counties.
The CODE task force charged a total of 45 people and putting a meth lab out of business between late December and throughout 2011.
CODE stands for Cooperative Operation for Drug Enforcement. It is the largest drug enforcement effort in the state, active in 22 counties, with 54 agencies participating. Among the agencies are the Nebraska State Patrol the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Agency.
CODE actions are funded by a grant from the Federal Bureau of Justice Assistance.
Other Nebraska counties designated as high-intensity drug traffic areas are Dakota, Dodge, Douglas, Hall, Lancaster, Madison, Platte, Sarpy, and Scotts Bluff, Nelson said.
Nelson sent a letter to David Barton, Executive Director of the Midwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area in February, noting the large number of federal drug cases in Lincoln County and encouraging the designation.