A poster displayed at a news conference Wednesday by Suffolk...

A poster displayed at a news conference Wednesday by Suffolk County Sheriff Errol D. Toulon, Jr. about a new correctional intelligence center in Yaphank warns of Xylazine, a highly potent sedative approved only for veterinary use that has been seized from jail and prison inmates.

Credit: John Roca

A new correctional intelligence center in Yaphank, designed to share information about potential threats from within jails and prisons across the region, will make Long Island communities safer by disrupting the flow of narcotics and helping break up criminal networks, Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. said Wednesday.

In just its first few weeks of operation, the center has already gathered data on the spread of Xylazine, a highly potent sedative approved only for veterinary use, and helped identify a suspect in a catalytic converter theft ring, Toulon said.

"This is a critical tool in stopping the flow of drugs into our jails, and ultimately into our neighborhoods," the sheriff said at a news conference in Yaphank with law enforcement and correction officials from across the state. "We will completely revolutionize, and really look to destroy, criminal networks in our community."

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol D. Toulon, Jr. joined Wednesday by...

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol D. Toulon, Jr. joined Wednesday by elected officials, industry professionals and commissioners from partnering corrections agencies, discusses the new corrections intelligence center. Credit: John Roca

The Corrections Intelligence Center began operating on a trial basis in March in a trailer across from the county jail, staffed by members of the Nassau, Suffolk and Morris County, New Jersey Sheriff's offices, the New York City and Westchester departments of correction and the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

The center, officials said, will also include remote participation from 20 additional counties across the state. Information will be shared with task forces embedded in the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the United States Marshals Service, along with Suffolk County's police department and district attorney’s office, officials said. In the fall, Toulon said, a Department of Defense analyst will join the operation.

The intelligence center will eventually move across the road to a former jail administrative building, occupying 2,500 square feet of space in a 16,000-square-foot building. The facility will also house a correctional training academy, personnel investigations bureau and K-9 center. The entire project, including the intelligence center, will cost $12.4 million and come out of the Suffolk County sheriff's capital budget.

Staff will not move into the new location until renovations of the building are complete, as early as 2025, officials said.

Center intelligence staff will use the facility to collect and disseminate information about contraband drugs such as fentanyl and gang affiliations, officials said.

"There are a lot of challenges facing law enforcement now, perhaps more so than ever," said Suffolk District Attorney Ray Tierney. "And the answer to that is collaboration, cooperation and working together."

Former New York City Corrections Commissioner Martin Horn said he established a similar multiagency intelligence center after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that proved valuable in making several criminal cases.

"Criminal enterprises don't respect county lines," said Horn, now a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. "I always felt back after 9/11 that if you wanted to find guys who are willing to sell guns or explosives or do nasty things, there's no place better to look than in jails."

In recent weeks, Toulon said, center intelligence officials have disseminated information regarding Xylazine — commonly known as Tranq-Dope — and new ways that fentanyl is being smuggled into jails, including being sprayed onto paper through the mail. 

In another instance, the center received information about an attorney attempting to smuggle marijuana and fentanyl to a New York City inmate while she was in court in Queens through clothes provided for her trial. Inside jails, Toulon said, drugs are worth 10 times the amount they are sold for on the streets.

The sharing of information about Xylazine has been critical in helping stop its spread, said Shaun Kelly, assistant commissioner of intelligence for the city's department of correction.

"We're getting intel and we pass it on to our brothers and sisters in Nassau and Suffolk so they don't see the same problem and we can mitigate it before it kills any more people," Kelly said. 

Suffolk also plans to use the intelligence network to solve crimes outside of jail walls.

Recently, Toulon said, intelligence was used to assist in the arrests of several individuals involved in a catalytic converter theft ring spanning Long Island.

Toulon said Chicago, Connecticut, Florida, Los Angeles, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia have agreed to work with the center. Potential international partners could include Australia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Great Britain and Puerto Rico, Toulon said.

"There are no boundaries," he said, "and we have to share information. There should not be silos in what we do."

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