What is the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 March 2020
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The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program (HIDTA) is an initiative of the United States federal government that targets law enforcement efforts in areas known for high levels of drug trafficking. Created in 1988 by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program provides federal resources to local, regional, and state law enforcement officials to target the reduction of drug trafficking and the arrest of drug dealers and traffickers. Efforts that may be funded by the program include prevention education, advanced training for law enforcement, and improvements that aid coordination between different levels of law enforcement.

To receive funding from the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, a region must qualify based on a variety of factors. It must be shown that the area has an extensive trafficking issue, including the manufacturing, sale, or importation of illegal drugs. In addition, a region must already be making concerted and demonstrable efforts to fight the drug problem. Program coordinators must also believe that federal funding will be able to make a distinct improvement in the specific situation before designating a region a HIDTA. As of the early 21st century, 28 areas in the United States have qualified for funding.


The resources given by the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program are allocated by a regional executive board that is comprised of both state officials and federal workers. This allows a balance to be struck between those who intimately understand the needs of the region and those who have a clearer picture of the program as a whole. The executive board works together to analyze the situation, develop programs and initiatives, and oversee the implementation of a strategy to reduce trafficking levels and the devastating effects of a high drug-use population. Since the needs of each community are distinct, money may be allocated very differently in different regions.

There are several areas of drug traffic reduction to which funds may be diverted by the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program executive board. Prevention and community education is often seen to be an important part of reducing future demand. These efforts are often focused on keeping children and young adults, who are extremely vulnerable to the drug trade, from ever getting involved with trafficking or use. Some money may also go toward the creation of treatment and rehabilitation for drug addicts to reduce the population of users that drug dealers can access.

In terms of stopping trafficking, considerable effort is put into investigating and prosecution the manufacture, importation, and distribution of drugs. Funds for a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program region may be used to pay for officer training, improved equipment, and to foster communication between enforcement agencies. Intelligence gathering is also a vital part of many programs, as it can lead to underground drug rings that may supply thousands of customers.


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