Pubdate: Sun, 13 Jan 2002
Source: Gainesville Sun, The (FL)
Copyright: 2002 The Gainesville Sun
Author: Tim Lockette


The post-Sept. 11 crackdown in airport and border security may have made it 
harder to sneak contraband into the country, but local law enforcement 
officials say sales of Ecstasy and other illegal drugs are as brisk as ever.

"As far as the supply in Gainesville goes there's no change whatsoever," 
said Ed van Winkle, head of the Gainesville Police Department's narcotics 
division. "There may be a change in what's coming across the border, but it 
hasn't had an effect in Gainesville yet."

With airport security and the nation's border patrol procedures coming 
under unprecedented scrutiny in the past few months, one might think that 
life would be getting a lot harder for people who deal in drugs 
manufactured outside the country. And one might expect a shortage of 
Ecstasy - a drug that law enforcement officials believe is manufactured 
primarily in Western Europe and smuggled through airports by passengers.

"We're still buying plenty of Ecstasy whenever we want to," said a member 
the Drug Enforcement Agency's Gainesville-area task force, which includes 
officers from DEA, the Gainesville Police and the Alachua County Sheriff's 
Office who often masquerade as buyers to make busts. The officer, who is 
involved in undercover operations, asked that his name not be used.

The last time law enforcement officials were able to put a chokehold on 
Gainesville's drug trade, the officer said, was during the law enforcement 
crackdown that followed the 1990 murders of five college students by Danny 
Rolling, who has since been convicted and sent to Death Row.

"We had a lot of eyes out on the street then," he said. "There were 
multiple helicopters patrolling the area, and other agencies watching out 
for suspicious activity. That worked."

DEA officials said the crackdown on the nation's airports and borders may 
yet have an effect on the drug market - if security remains tight.

"I wouldn't expect to see an effect until May or June at the earliest," 
said Violet Szeleczky, spokeswoman for the DEA office in Miami. "The 
dealers maintain stockpiles in case something interrupts the supply."

Those stockpiles apparently haven't run out. Szeleczky said the DEA hasn't 
seen any drop in drug seizures since the terrorist attacks. And cocaine 
prices - probably a better indicator of drug availability - don't seem to 
have risen in the past few months, she said.

Van Winkle said dealers might also be finding new ways to bring illegal 
drugs into the country. But he warned that despite recent increases in 
airport security, drug couriers are probably still bringing Ecstasy and 
other drugs into the country through airports.

"I took a flight just last week and nobody looked through my suitcase," he 
said. "They don't check every bag and people are probably still willing to 
take a chance."
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