More lives on Long Island would be lost to drugs such as heroin, meth and fentanyl if Congress doesn't reverse a $154 million cut to federal agencies that work with local law enforcement to disable drug traffickers, officials said Tuesday.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) derided the budget cuts to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Marshals Service, which he said would result in about 100 fewer "most important" investigations "no longer being pursued." The funding cuts also resulted in a DEA hiring freeze, Schumer said.
"Now is simply not the time for the DEA and other agencies to take a machete to their budgets or their workforce, especially when drug use on Long Island is on the rise," Schumer said at a news briefing alongside Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota at the district attorney's Hauppauge office.
"The Sinaloa cartel and others are doubling down on Long Island," Schumer said. "They know it's a market that has a lot of young people, some of them have some money. So they're targeting us. And here's the federal government sort of pulling the rug out from under the help that they give to our local law enforcement . . . more heroin, more meth, more fentanyl, more death."
Schumer predicted the funding would shape up to be "one of the biggest fights" on Capitol Hill when Congress reconvenes in September.
Last year, heroin killed 137 people on Long Island, Schumer said. Most of the heroin currently sold on Long Island and across the five boroughs is smuggled into the United States by the Sinaloa cartel, considered the world's largest drug-trafficking organization, officials said.
Spota said his office has a "long, long history of a collaborative effort with the DEA," and pointed to a June bust in which his office worked with the agency to arrest 14 people in connection with a heroin-trafficking ring that stretched from Deer Park to the Bronx.
"If this money is cut, I'm telling you, this is a free pass for them to bring more to our county and continue to ruin the lives of young people," Spota said.