Local News WCAX started a two-part series last night called The Dark Highway. Much like any place near a border, the North Country has its share of issues with smuggling and drugs. Add the Northway, which links Montreal with NYC and points south, and it’s natural that this would be the case. (Remember the days before the Northway?) Oddly enough, this sort of transportation of goods and services (legal+illegal) has been an integral part of the history in our region since Sam Champlain came through. What is most interesting is the plight of a city like Plattsburgh, located just south of the border and right on I-87.
It’s true that the location of Plattsburgh is ideal for less than savory cross-border activity. What with the convenience of every known fast-food franchise on the East Coast, hotels/motels/inns of varying caliber, 10 gas stations within walking distance of each other, and miles of mini and mighty malls, of course the wandering drug smuggler would find it attractive. Oh, I forgot to mention “historic” downtown.
“Believe it or not, there is a big drug business in this area.” Jim Farnsworth, DEA
Agent Farnsworth works alongside of the local U.S. Border Patrol, the New York State Police, Clinton County Sheriff’s Department, and the Plattsburgh City Police in what is called the Adirondack Drug Task Force. Another “Adirondack” agency. I don’t know about you, but looking up anything in that part of the phone book is a pain.
Apparently there is big money in battling drug trafficking.
“These are people that come into our community and do drug transactions and they sometimes will bring tons and tons of cash,” said Chief Desmond Racicot of Plattsburgh City Police Department.
The police department has received over $2 million in forfeited funds to date…Plattsburgh has used it to buy body armor, guns, and high-tech forensic equipment. “We are one of the best equiped and best trained police departments around.”
Given the fact that tax rates and utilities are going up in Plattsburgh, maybe they could spread the wealth just a bit. The most interesting part is the seeming cooperation from local businesses and hotels.
So, Racicot and his colleagues take to the streets. Places like Route 3– a perfect spot for drug activity. It has large parking lots, plenty of restaurants, and a handful of hotels. The task force makes allies with local businesses to keep an eye out.
“Something suspicious,” said Farnsworth. “Because the hotels know that this doesn’t seems like the normal traveler, they will give us a call and say you might want to look into this individual and we will respond. We also go to the hotels on a normal basis and check the hotels ourselves.”
Back in the day it was rumoured that an enterprising desk clerk could make some extra cash in “tip” money from other similar task force agents. My question is, why publicize this information? It makes the hotels look bad and it divulges operational and intelligence gathering procedures. Look for Part II tonite at 6.