ST. LOUIS (AP) — Federal, state and local law enforcement are teaming up to establish a new drug and organized crime task force in St. Louis, U.S. attorneys for the region announced Tuesday.
Officials say the goal of the Gateway Strike Force is to combine resources to investigate drug trafficking, murders and other crimes committed by gangs and cartels in the St. Louis area, both in Missouri and in nearby Illinois.
“Our citizens have heard me say on numerous occasions that at least 50 percent of our City’s homicides and gun violence is drug-related; not to mention the fact that drug overdoses in our City have ravaged through our community as well,” St. Louis police Commissioner John Hayden said in a statement. “The Drug Strike Force will be a regional effort which promises to have a meaningful impact on the city’s gun violence and overdose rate. I am thankful for the opportunity to participate on the Strike Force and I am looking forward to reaping the benefits of its presence in our region.”
The strike force is under the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program. Similar strike forces are in place in 18 other cities, including Kansas City, which announced its program in December.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Delworth said the strike force would initially get $600,000 for the program, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. He said the strike force also would have greater access to tracking devices, wiretaps and undercover agents.
Gateway Strike Force investigations are geared toward federal prosecutions, but officials say it could also lead to criminal prosecutions in state courts.
Groups participating in the strike force include the DEA, FBI, St. Louis County and city police, the Missouri Highway Patrol and the Missouri National Guard.
Participating agencies have agreed to assign full-time personnel to the Strike Force. Police officers, federal agents, and prosecutors are working together under one roof. For security reasons, the location will not be made public.
MetroSTL.com staff contributed to this report.