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W.Va. DHS targets illegal drug activity with new tip line

(WSAZ)
Published: Aug. 3, 2020 at 12:37 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va (WDTV) - The West Virginia Department of Homeland Security established the state’s first drug tip line.

The tip line allows residents to anonymously report illegal activity through the West Virginia Fusion Center’s Narcotics Intelligence Unit, DHS officials said in a news release.

DHS officials said Governor Jim Justice directed the DHS to establish the toll-free tip line. It was launched on Aug. 1.

The West Virginia Drug Tip Line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at (833) 905-DRUG (3784) for callers to speak with a staff member trained to receive such information, DHS officials said. Information can also be submitted online.

“Gov. Justice’s vision for the new Department of Homeland Security was to make it flexible to meet the demands of all domestic and international threats to West Virginia,” said DHS Secretary Jeff Sandy. “Every division of Homeland Security is being used to fight countless threats to West Virginia from the pandemic to illegal drug trafficking.”

That includes the Fusion Center, which will assign information provided through the tip line to an Narcotics Intelligence Unit intelligence analyst.

“Multiple Homeland Security divisions have a representative at the Fusion Center, which is the location of the new Narcotics Intelligence Unit,” Sandy said. “Our goal is to help every law enforcement agency in West Virginia in the war on drugs. The announcement of the first statewide drug tip line in the first month of the Narcotics Intelligence Unit’s existence shows the resolve and commitment of Gov. Justice.”

“Another prong of the Narcotics Intelligence Unit is to authorize Homeland Security’s legal team to assist county prosecuting attorneys upon request,” Sandy added.

According to DHS officials, the trained staff at the Division of Emergency Management’s Watch Center will take the call. Then, they will relay information to the NIU.

“The Fusion Center is pleased to coordinate with the Emergency Management Division to provide this resource for our citizens,” said Fusion Center Director Jack Luikart. “This will be one of the many assets we’ll use to assist our law enforcement partners in their efforts to identify and dismantle drug suppliers targeting West Virginia.”

The tip line is supported by law enforcement agencies across the Mountain State, DHR officials said. Advocates include Delegate Rodney Miller, D-Boone, a former county sheriff who is now executive director of the West Virginia Sheriffs’ Association.

“The sheriffs from across West Virginia are happy to join other law enforcement and partners in this statewide initiative to help provide another point of contact to aid in the fight against substance abuse in our state,” said Miller.  “This collective approach to fighting substance abuse brings a newer collaborative together to strengthen our efforts to make West Virginia better.”

The W.Va. Chiefs of Police Association has endorsed this effort through its board, said St. Albans Police Chief Joe Crawford, the group’s vice president.

“The West Virginia Chiefs of Police are proud to partner with WVDHS on this important and vital mission,” Crawford said. “Our board of directors unanimously voted to support this initiative. I believe that this will aid and assist law enforcement agencies across West Virginia to fight the war on drugs and the opioid epidemic which is still a major problem for all of law enforcement.”

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