Pubdate: Wed, 31 Jul 2002
Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)
Copyright: 2002 San Francisco Examiner
Author: Nick Driver, Of The Examiner Staff
Note: The Associated Press contributed to this story.


The national war on terrorism is killing local cops' ability to combat 
rising drug-related homicides, drug agents and police say.

On Tuesday, FBI Director Robert Mueller went to Capitol Hill to pry more 
FBI resources away from the drug war so he can direct them at 
counterterrorism efforts.

"We will still participate but with fewer resources," Mueller said.

Local (police) are very concerned about the shift, said DEA spokesman 
Thomas Hinojosa, adding that the DEA would "pick up the slack" from the 
approximately 400 FBI agents -- of 11,324 total -- who are being reassigned 
away from drug enforcement.

But he said that DEA director Asa Hutchinson had not requested more funds 
from Congress to replace the FBI agents, saying "you may see a lull until 
things become more permanent."

That lull could lead to more local killings if recent trends continue: the 
shrinking number of FBI agents has led to a spike in drug-related violent 

San Francisco has recorded 28 murders through June (the latest statistics), 
six more than the same period last year, a 27 percent increase.

Oakland's drug-related homicides are up more, leading Mayor Jerry Brown to 
push through an emergency tax plan for 100 more police officers, as well as 
drug prevention programs.

"The FBI's priority is the war on terrorism, and Northern California has 
been affected," said Richard Meyer, a spokesman for DEA's Northern 
California division. "Drug trafficking and violence go hand in hand."

"All drive-by shootings are caused by drug wars," Meyer said, noting San 
Francisco's ethnic diversity has contributed to its "really good drug mix."

The diverse number of drugs and ethnic diversity of drug smugglers adds 
even more difficulty and pressure to the job, Meyer said, rattling off a 
smorgasbord of drugs that pass into or through San Francisco: Southeast 
Asian heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy and marijuana.

Mueller's comments, which came at the 20th anniversary celebration for the 
Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force, followed statements by 
Attorney General John Ashcroft reaffirming that the drug war would be 
reorganized but not abandoned.

But local Drug Enforcement Agency and San Francisco Police Department 
officials say Ashcroft's rhetoric -- he promised that "we will defeat 
drugs" -- means nothing without warriors in the field.
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