Stop the Murder
Begin with a consensus that illegal drugs are evil.
murders in this city are rising. A recent Rand Corp. report reveals that
illegal drug use in the entire area is booming. And last week's White
House Conference on a Drug-Free America, along with civil and military
unrest in Panama, makes it clear that illegal drugs are a national and
not kid ourselves. There will be no quick fix. It will take more
money, more enforcement, more education and prevention, more treatment and
more commitment from the American people.
first, last and most important point, however, is that our society agree on
one thing: that drugs are evil, that they have no redeeming virtue.
That consensus is now building.
is this so important? Because it worked once, and common sense says it
will work again. In the early part of this century, heroin, cocaine
and other drugs were not illegal, medical authorities said they were not
dangerous, and stores across America sold them over the counter in various
forms. The result of that misplaced tolerance was a huge number of
drug addicts throughout the population. The American people were outraged,
and Congress began to respond in 1914 with tough laws, criminalizing possession
and distribution and setting stiff penalties. The problem receded -
until memories of that period dimmed, and tolerance eventually returned in
then are still some who advocate decriminalizing illegal drugs, their ranks
are justifiably thinning for three powerful reasons. First,
decriminalization is morally wrong. Illegal drugs hurt the human body
and - in many cases - kill their users. In 1987 there were 219 deaths
from cocaine, heroin and heroin substitutes in the District, up from 145
deaths in 1986. Second, it does not work. As the British have
found with legalized heroin and as we have found with methadone
maintenance for heroin addicts, there will always be a black market for
these drugs. Third, advocates ignore our early 20th century history:
that a consensus on the dangers of drugs can relieve the problem.
new consensus will ensure success again. But there is no question that law
enforcement has to keep unremitting pressure on both the supply and demand
for illegal drugs.
Metropolitan Police Department's Operation Clean Sweep, for example, is not
only an effective means of arresting large numbers of retail dealers; it is
also a way to keep faith with the people in the neighborhoods, to whom the
drug dealer on the corner might just as well be Al Capone.
drug arrests here have risen from 3,857 in 1979 to 13,785 in 1987.
Although some critics contend that Clean Sweep does not work—that it only
sweeps the dirt around—they overlook the fact that the only alternative to
vigorous police action is to begin to cede actual control of this city and
other cities—social, economic and ultimately political control—to the
dealers. That policy of accommodation has been tried in Colombia with
disastrous and tragic results.
is just as important to go after the middlemen and importers as the dealers.
The police, along with agents from the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency
and senior prosecutors, target kingpins and their organizations, such as
Cornell Jones (now serving a 27-year prison term) and his Hanover Place
gang, and the Italian Mafiosi who in 1987 linked up with Colombians in an
attempt to sell cocaine through pizzerias in the District and Northern
Virginia. We need more of these operations and more resources to support
also must do as much as we can to interrupt the production of these drugs at
their source. When my office became the first U.S. attorney's office
to secure the extradition of a Colombian cocaine distributor, Marcos Cadavid,
a new chapter began in our international enforcement efforts. The
recent invalidation, under the deadly pressure of drug dealers, of our
extradition treaty by the Colombia Supreme Court only serves to underscore
how frightened these drug producers are of American justice. With
most Colombian and other Latin American leaders genuinely terrified of the
violence that the drug cartel directs, now is the time for U.S.
policy-makers to be even firmer than ever, offering to send more American
agents and, if need be, contingents of American troops to assist the local
authorities to reacquire control over sections of their own countries.
vigorous and costly prosecution programs are necessary, they alone are not
adequate. What they do is buy time and keep the situation from
becoming worse. Only when we reduce demand will our success be real.
Users must be told that they are stockholders in organized crime and must be
punished. That will occur only when the popular opposition to drugs
becomes what Nancy Reagan calls "unyielding and inflexible and