Pubdate: Tue, 27 Aug 2002
Source: State, The (SC)
Copyright: 2002 The State
Note: The New York Times cited as source.
Bookmark: (Heroin)


WASHINGTON -- A massive narcotics sweep involving 25,000 law enforcement 
officers and coordinated by the Drug Enforcement Administration across 15 
countries of Central Asia and the Balkans has resulted in the arrest or 
detention of thousands of suspects, federal officials said last week.

The sweep this summer -- from June 10 to July 11 -- seized more than 3,700 
pounds of heroin and nine tons of other narcotics.

For years, the agency has conducted multinational actions in Latin America, 
but this operation was the first to cover the Balkans and Central Asia, the 
officials said.

The sweep, involving police, customs and border officers in 18 countries, 
was coordinated in three phases by regional command centers in Bucharest, 
Romania, and Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, with the assistance of about 40 officers 
of the Drug Enforcement Administration. The agency also supplied 
communications equipment for the operation.

One official, Steven Casteel, the drug agency's chief of intelligence, said 
the lessons learned from the cooperative operation were more important than 
sheer numbers.

"Statistics are poor, if any, help in determining the correct actions to be 
taken in policing or as a measure of success," Casteel said.

Instead, Casteel, who has been in drug enforcement for 30 years, is 
concentrating on what he can learn about trends in global drug smuggling 

"I am a big believer in trans-national policing," Casteel said. "You can 
talk about al Qaeda and other forms of terrorism, but the biggest threat 
anywhere in the world isn't terror, it's organized crime."

He said the emphasis at the Regional Center for Combating Transborder 
Crime, in Bucharest, was on identifying choke points on the main Balkan 
routes used to move narcotics to Western and Northern Europe.

The Bishkek operations were devised not only to catch smugglers, American 
officials said, but also to learn the methods of Central Asian and Afghan 
heroin traffickers, the routes traffickers used, the involvement of 
militant groups in drug trafficking, prices and purity levels.
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