Russell Coleman, the U.S. attorney for western Kentucky, said Monday that federal law enforcement agencies are required to work with law enforcement in the Owensboro area to curb drug trafficking in the area.
Coleman spoke after a meeting Monday morning at the Owensboro Convention Center that brought together local officials, prosecutors from across western Kentucky, and agents from the FBI, ATF, Federal Homeland Security, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The aim of the meeting, Coleman said, is to discuss how federal, state and local law enforcement agencies can better coordinate the investigation, and to discuss the “nature of the threat” in the city and county.
“The purpose of our presence today is, ‘How can we do a better job? ‘Said Coleman after the meeting.
The city has requested to be designated a “High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area,” which would open more federal resources for human trafficking investigations, treatment and prevention. Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cain, who attended the meeting, said Monday afternoon that federal officials will allocate their resources to cases of human trafficking in the area, regardless of whether the city has HIDTA status or not.
Federal officials said their resources were “fully available in the absence of HIDTA,” said Cain.
“It was a very open meeting,” asking local officials how federal agencies could better assist them, Cain said. Officials raised no concerns, he said, adding that the nature of drug trafficking has changed to where federal aid is needed.
“I can remember 30 years ago when the US attorney’s office was something that local officials were little concerned with,” said Cain, unless local law enforcement went into a very big drug bankruptcy.
But the difference between the drug trafficking cases then and now is “absolutely globally segregated,” said Cain.
Methamphetamine is the primary drug abused in Daviess County, a fact that has been around for decades. However, the trade in and distribution of meth has changed dramatically as meth went from being a drug cooked in local laboratories to being an international product.
Not too many years ago, meth was made locally in laboratories powered by stolen anhydrous ammonia and pseudoephedrine pills bought in supermarkets and pharmacies. State laws against people buying large amounts of pseudoephedrine to make meth left local production by the wayside.
International drug cartels opened up and began importing crystal methane, most of which was made in Mexico, into the region.
The traded meth is more potent than the local meth it replaces and costs less, Coleman said. The region’s meth trade has changed as more meth and other drugs are shipped through the U.S. Postal Service and package delivery services like FedEx.
“People need to know and demand from their government to be careful that packages (services) are the mechanism of choice in the 21st century,” said Coleman on international drug trafficking.
As with everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted investigations into drug trafficking.
“This has been an extremely difficult year because of COVID,” said JT Scott, West Kentucky Region special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Shawn Morrow, special agent for the Louisville Division of the Louisville Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said the meeting highlighted “a real need to come together” and coordinate the investigations by local and federal agencies.
“We know drugs and gangs often go together,” said Morrow.
Coleman said while the HIDTA expulsion would help the area, even if Owensboro is not designated as a HIDTA area, federal officials would coordinate with each other and with local authorities.
“We’re here. We’ve been here for a while,” Coleman said.