[Media Awareness Project]

Wire: Drug Czar: Drug War Regionalized

Newshawk: Kendra E. Wright (kewright@erols.com) Source: Associated Press Pubdate: Wed, 03 Dec 1997


Washington (AP) -- From the border with Mexico to the port of New York and out to the Great Plains, the war against drugs is being regionalized, White House drug chief Barry McCaffrey said Wednesday.

``What we are facing is not a national drug problem but a series of regional drug epidemics,'' the retired Army general said as he closed a conference that brought together officials of 22 ``high-intensity drug trafficking areas.''

Each is designed to tailor anti-drug efforts to local conditions.

From a beginning of five such regions in 1990 with a federal investment of $25 million, the focus areas have grown to 22, dividing a $162 million federal payment, McCaffrey said.

At a news conference, he portrayed them as an integral part of a strategy of prevention, treatment, law enforcement and prosecution aimed at reducing drug use by a third over the next decade.

And he asserted that while drug use remains huge, drug-related crimes are falling and the number of Americans using drugs is decreasing.

``We are seeing results,'' he said.

In a report, the White House National Drug Policy office spelled out drug threats in each of the 22 regions, including the number and type of trafficking organizations, the number of hard-core drug abusers, the dominant drugs in the market, the number of money-laundering organizations and the geographic factors making each area unique.

The report also prescribed an anti-drug strategy for each region.

In the New York-New Jersey region, for example, suggested initiatives include a regional drug-information clearing house, regional coordination of anti-drug efforts, a photo-imaging network, an information retrieval system, and a firearms mapping system and information sharing by regional prosecutors.

Along Arizona's border with Mexico, the strategy is aimed at attacking the upper echelons of drug organizations by maximizing seizures of drugs and money, dismantling drug laboratories and by prosecuting numerous defendants simultaneously. Steps to enhance border surveillance and drug interdiction also are planned.

In Chicago the aim is to dismantle the street gangs said to control the supply and distribution of illegal drugs, primarily cocaine.

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