Pubdate: Wed, 07 Jun 2006
Source: Morris Daily Herald (IL)
Copyright: 2006 Morris Daily Herald
Author: Jo Ann Hustis
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Bookmark: (Walters, John)


Drug Czar Addresses Educators, Law Enforcers

JOLIET -- Admitting the problem is the biggest issue America has in 
the war on illicit drugs, noted national drug czar John Walters.

"The biggest enemy we have here is cynicism," said Walter, director 
of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, in 
speaking before a select group of law enforcement officials and 
educators in the 11th Congressional District.

"We know we need to control both supply and demand of drugs. 
Prevention is the key."

Walters was the guest of Congressman Jerry Weller, R-Morris, host and 
moderator to the roundtable discussion on regional and national drug 
interdiction efforts.

"We've taken our anti-drug media campaign to help parents understand 
more what is happening," he said of the NDCP efforts. "We've talked 
about the relationship between drugs and terror, the importance of 
peer pressure. We understand what medical science tells us about the 
disease qualities of addiction."

"It's not what many kids are led to believe -- that it's a way of 
using your free time -- an expression of your freedom and your 
lifestyle," he added. "It's an illness that not only harms those who 
take illicit drugs, but it harms whole families, communities and 
nations, including our own."

Walters said his office is trying to use that message to get young 
people to resist the view that "there's something wrong with you if 
your peers say it's OK and you say 'No, its not OK,' at a time when 
peer approval is very important."

He spoke about drug screening in schools, which he termed a 
controversial provision, with results to be kept confidential and 
only used to obtain help for the user, not punishment. He said the 
government is making federal money available for those communities 
that want to do drug screening.

Roundtable panelists included Will County Sheriff Paul Kaupas, who 
said his department did not see a changing trend in illicit drugs.

"Basically, it's staying in the same cycle -- nothing has really 
changed," he told the audience. "We've noticed heroin runs in cycles. 
There's the thought methamphetamine is coming to the county. It is 
down in the southern area, and in Grundy County a couple times a 
couple of years ago, but it's not really come up into this area."

Kaupas said his department would like to say its efforts have stemmed 
the advance.

"But, anybody in law enforcement here will tell you it's really 
because cocaine is so entrenched -- it's the market," he added. "I 
don't think it's anything we're doing. That's just the way it is."

Chief Judge Stephen D. White of the Will County Circuit Court did not 
think it hard to cure someone from being addicted to drugs.

"It's harder to get the person away from what got them into drugs to 
begin with," he said. "It means changing their environment, and 
everything that goes with it."

White blamed a lot of the nation's problems with illicit drugs on 
federal judges.

"I think a lot of rulings they have made have made it very difficult 
for educators. It used to be (school was) the only environment they 
had where they would get rules and regulations and they had to adhere 
to things, even if it was something as small as a dress code," he noted.

"But now, the tops go up and the bottoms go down and they start 
sticking things all over their bodies and into their heads, and as 
soon as you try to stop them from doing it, you end up in federal court."

La Salle County Sheriff Tom Templeton cited Interstate 80 as a major 
drug route in the county, which it has been for quite some time, he added.

"It's contributed to several deaths over the last several years, more 
than we have out in the country on the rural roads," Templeton said.

Joliet Police Chief David Gerdes noted a 50 percent reduction in the 
city's crime rate in the past decade, plus what he said was a 
substantial reduction in violent crime.

Gerdes spoke of local revenue sources becoming quite stretched, 
however, to the point where he had to create an in-house narcotics 
unit in the city of Joliet to address narcotics trafficking on the 
street corners.

"We also had two meth lab cases in Joliet last year, one involving an 
actual explosion in a local hotel, so we are starting to see it 
spread in this area," he said. "I do agree with the sheriff what has 
slowed the meth progress down is cocaine trafficking from Chicago."

Others panelists who spoke included Kankakee County Sheriff Tim 
Bukowski, and Don Miskowiec, director of the North Central Behavioral 
Health Systems.

Weller said the roundtable was very important because Congress and 
federal agencies cooperate and listen and learn from the local agencies.

"Who frankly, are on the front line," he said.

" I've found the partnership we have had has been working. For 
example, the Illinois Valley Drug Coalition is developing plans for 
collaborative efforts between law enforcement, local citizens and 
community organizations to reduce drug usage, and the crime that 
results from it."

Weller said that, in this past year, he secured a grant of $150,000 
for the city of Ottawa to gather and analyze substance abuse data , 
create drug education awareness campaigns, conduct drug and alcohol 
awareness and training for counselors and teacher, and assist the 
Ottawa Police Department on narcotics investigations.

"I believe this program in particular has potential to develop in a 
national model," he said.

He noted the $230,000 in block grant money to the North Central 
Behavioral Systems, which operates in a seven-county region providing 
substance abuse services.

Weller said the federal government has increased its commitment to 
the war on drugs and substance abuse from $2.9 billion 20 years ago 
to $12.6 billion this year.

"We're seeing successes. For example, from 2003 to 2004, the purity 
of heroin decreased by 22 percent, while the price has risen by 30 
percent," he added. "A similar trend is shaping up for cocaine. Use 
of illegal drugs by eighth through 12th graders has dropped 18 
percent since 2001."

Walters said after the roundtable the best way for area agencies to 
sustain the revenue stream from Washington is to show what's 
happening as a result of the federal dollars.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman