Exclusive: Cleveland is about to get a 'Strike Force' targeting drug trafficking, violent crime

Posted at 12:02 PM, Oct 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-24 17:40:24-04

The city of Cleveland will join about a dozen other cities across the country with a multi-agency “Strike Force" targeting large-scale drug trafficking and violent crime. 

Multiple sources have confirmed to News 5 that the announcement is expected to come later this week when a top Department of Justice official is scheduled to visit Cleveland.

The Strike Force designation will put more money toward fighting the opioid epidemic and violent crime in Northeast Ohio by pooling federal, state and local law enforcement resources.

Sources confirm that dozens of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies will be housed under one roof as part of the new initiative in Cleveland including:

  • Drug Enforcement Administration
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Homeland Security Investigation
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
  • U.S. Marshals Service
  • U.S. Border Patrol
  • U.S. Postal Inspection Service
  • Internal Revenue Service - Criminal
  • Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department
  • Cleveland Police Department
  • And more than a dozen state and local law enforcement departments

Several other cities already have designed Strike Force task forces including:

  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Baltimore
  • Chicago
  • Denver
  • Houston/South Texas
  • New York
  • Tampa
  • Caribbean Corridor
  • San Diego
  • El Paso
  • Los Angeles
  • Arizona - not tied to a specific city
  • Detroit

The Southeast Michigan Regional Organized Crime Task Force Strike Force, or OCDETF Strike Force, is the most recent Strike Force to be announced, it was unveiled at a news conference last month.  

In a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office about the Detroit task force, it said the Strike Force is tasked with coordinating investigations “to identify, disrupt, dismantle and prosecute transnational criminal organizations, violent drug trafficking organizations, firearms trafficking organizations and their subsidiary organizations.”

In Cleveland, in a news release issued just last week, it said federal prosecutors in northern Ohio filed indictments against 959 people between October 1, 2017 and September 20, 2018. According to the release, that is a 50 percent increase from the previous year and the highest amount in more than a decade.

As News 5 reported exclusively earlier this week, The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Ohio was awarded a grand to fight the opioid epidemic. The grant is being used to put a laser focus on Lorain County with the Synthetic Opioid Surge imitative or SOS.

The DEA and FBI are leading the operation while working with several local police departments in Lorain County.

"We're taking every opioid case federally," said Herdman. The end goal of Operation SOS is to see a decrease of overdose deaths in Lorain County, added Herdman.

The 10 counties taking part in Operation SOS:

  • Lorain County, OH
  • Montgomery County, OH
  • Knox County, TN
  • Fayette County, KY
  • Cabell County, WV
  • Berkley County, WV
  • Cumberland County, ME 
  • Sacramento County, CA 
  • Washington County, PA
  • Hillsboro County, NH

More information is expected to be released about the new Cleveland “Strike Force Task Force,” on Friday.