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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Monday, July 21, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Symptom of a disease: Officials are moving ahead with a reorganization of Westmoreland County's Common Pleas Court to allow for a drug court. Grants will be sought for its implementation. Sadly, a specific court for drug defendants is a response to the area's ongoing surge in cheap heroin, prescription painkiller abuse and rising overdose deaths. Read on.

Easy prescriptions: The apparent ease in obtaining prescription painkillers is evident in charges against three Mt. Pleasant Township residents and two others who allegedly obtained thousands of pills from area pharmacies in four counties over 10 months. One of the suspects worked at a medical center, where a prescription pad allegedly was used to write bogus prescriptions. How many? For its own use the group fraudulently obtained more than 4,000 Oxycodone pills, authorities said. It's no wonder Westmoreland County is battling a prescription drug problem.

Planning? What planning?: Only 32 of 65 Westmoreland County municipalities have submitted data for a hazard mitigation plan, which details how these locales would be affected by disasters, such as flooding or blizzards. Doing so qualifies them for federal funding if the president declares a state of emergency, a county official says. Surely the requisite information is at local leaders' fingertips from their own disaster plans — which presumably are regularly updated, right?

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