A new partnership between the Department of the Interior and law enforcement from the nation's Native American reservations are working together to help get drugs and dealers off the streets, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Thursday.
"It's to support the president's directive on opiods," Zinke told Fox News' "Fox & Friends" program. "Native American tribes, you look at the statistics, there are far more drugs on native reservations. We are serious about it."
Zinke said his department has about 4,0000 law enforcement officials and has formed a task force to work with tribal police to fight drugs, and to get dealers off the streets.
Part of the issue is that the nation's reservations have a lot of land that is not patrolled by law enforcement, meaning that it ends up being used by criminals, including drug dealers and child traffickers.
"You know, they need some help," said Zinke. "We work with the tribes. We are serious. The president has said this is a war on opioids. It's destroying communities; it's destroying communities on Indian reservations at a higher rate. Again, we are targeting the problem, which is the drug dealers and we have been enormously successful."
The tribal nations are sovereign, said Zinke, so his department is targeting areas where the nations ask for help.
"We're going to continue along the border," he added. "There are a lot of problems there. This is important. The president has made a stand about the opioids. It's destroying communities. It's destroying reservations and Indian nations at a higher rate."
The most current operation is in Arizona, but the department has also worked in Minnesota, North Carolina, and Washington state.
"We coordinate with the tribal police, nation to nation," said Zinke. "It's been enormously successful. I'm proud of what our Bureau of Indian Affairs officers have done. We have 4,000 law enforcement officer sand they are doing a great job."
Zinke said there is an uptick in fentanyl being discovered, a drug that is far more potent than heroin.
"We see a lot of hard drugs going back and forth," he said. "They are hidden in tires. The reservations, a lot of them are land-based, [with] millions of acres. It's hard to patrol and have law enforcement in every corner.
"So, a lot of times, these reservations are ready service lockers for drugs. Most of it is coming from the southern border. The president is exactly right once again, let's make sure we have law and order and secure our southern border."
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