This alarming situation, reported by the Justice Department, was brought to the attention of the U.S. Senate recently by Sen. Claiborne Pell, D-R.I. who attributed much of the crime increase to “illicit drug trafficking which flourishes in America.”
Twenty-four million households – almost a third of those in the nation – were touched by crime in one form or another.
Noting that the effect of crime is not limited to its immediate victims, Pell said: “Families and friends share the pain, hardship and aftermath of fear that crime causes.”
The senator quoted a Gallup poll which said that in cities with a population of 1 million or more, half of those residents expressing a desire to leave their cities cited crime as the chief reason.
Re: drug trafficking, the Justice Department estimates that payments by users and traffickers for heroin, cocaine, hashish and other dangerous drugs are between $54 and $73 billion annually.
Pell cited studies made by University of Delaware and Temple University as providing evidence of a relationship between drug trafficking and crime, and that “controlling the supply of illicit drugs is a key to reducing criminal activity.”
Unfortunately, the General Accounting Office has found that despite years of effort and outlay of billions of dollars, the federal government has made “little real progress” in the fight against drug trafficking, Pell reported.
Last year the Coast Guard seized marijuana with a secret value of a billion dollars; yet this figure was estimated at only about 10 percent of the total amount smuggled into the country.
Other agencies, such as the Customs Service and the Border Patrol also estimate that only 5 to 10 percent of the drugs coming into the country are seized.
One phase of the problem is passport control. A recent New York Times’ story reported tens of thousands of people obtain U.S. passports under false identities each year, largely for drug trafficking purposes. Better coordination between enforcement agencies and the State Department obviously is necessary.
Pell’s evaluation is that “the single most important problem is that the one in the federal government has a clear mandate or is exercising sufficient leadership to develop an integrated national strategy to deal with the drug problem.”
A clear over-all approach must involve coordination among 17 federal agencies, state and local agencies, and several foreign governments and international organizations.
As a step toward solution, Pell has required President Reagan to designate a member of his cabinet to personally oversee federal drug enforcement policy and insure successful strategy implementation.
He also proposed filling several key enforcement agency posts and making sure enforcement agencies have the resource to do the job.
Given the immensity of the problem, no quick solution can be expected, but an effective and aggressive national attack on drug trafficking certainly ought to go a long way toward stopping the entry of illegal drugs into this country.