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Justice Department Announces Cleveland Effort Targeting Drugs And Violence

rod_rosenstein_-_by_alex_brandon.jpg
Alex Brandon
/
Associated Press
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaks during an event to announce new strategic actions to combat the opioid crisis at the Department of Justice's National Opioid Summit in the Great Hall at the Department of Justice, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced Friday the creation of a new task force in Cleveland aimed at taking down drug trafficking and violent crime.

A mix of federal and local agencies – including the FBI, the U.S. Attorney and Cleveland Police – will work in one building as the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Strike Force.

“Those agencies have diverse capabilities,” said Rosenstein. “By working together with a single mission, we know they can make an impact in dismantling drug organizations here and internationally.”

While some of the agencies have worked together before, FBI Special Agent in Charge Steve Anthony says a coalition dealing with drugs and crime collectively is unprecedented.

“This strike realizes you can’t separate the drug trade, the epidemic impacting our communities from the violent crime that goes along with it,” Anthony said.

The strike force will target gangs as well as organizations involved in producing and selling opioids.

Cleveland’s task force is the 16th of its kind in the country.

The federal government will cover costs such as rent, but an office location has not yet been determined. Regardless of the space, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Justin Herdman says the agencies are already working collaboratively.

“We have already identified cases and targets, we are working together as a team already regardless of whether we’re already co-located under one roof,” Herdman said.

Rosenstein and others pointed to Ohio’s high rate of drug overdose deaths as a reason for the Cleveland task force. Herdman says local residents should be able to see the impact of the group’s work.

“We are going to see less violent crime, we’re going to see less overdose deaths, and we’re ultimately going to have a safer and healthier community as a result of this strike force,” Herdman said.