Pubdate: Fri, 1 Feb 2008
Source: Calgary Sun, The (CN AB)
Copyright: 2008 The Calgary Sun
Author: Bill Kaufmann
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Heroin)


The scruffy undercover guys lingered near the door, well out of camera range.

Behind a pile of confiscated cocaine and cash at the front of the 
room, their boss was enjoying a rare very good day. Tellingly, even 
amid the fruits of some good police work, Staff Sgt. Monty Sparrow 
tempered his enthusiasm.

The take might be a week's worth or two of blow on city streets, it's 
hard to tell because there's just so much of it out there, he said.

Despite all their exertions and those of drug warriors in places such 
as Colombia, the price of coke in Calgary has come down from $40,000 
a kilo eight years ago to as low as $25,000. The U.S. has blown $3 
billion on drug eradication in Colombia since 2000 and the supply in 
el Norte just keeps creeping up.

A couple of days before the big Calgary bust was announced, the drug 
unit's Det. Doug Hudacin lamented developments at the drug's source 
that determines the fate of his efforts.

"Look at Colombia -- the country's funded by cocaine," he says. 
"They've built an army, schools, roads ... it's a business concern 
making billions a year tax-free.

"They have infinite budgets and we don't."

Hudacin was only referring to the drug cartels and guerrillas, but 
you could add pro-government paramilitaries to the mix.

In Afghanistan, government members supported by Canadian troops have 
a hand in some of the heroin heading this way from crops virtually 
wiped out during the Taliban era. Local cops brandishing those 
Support the Troops decals must be thrilled.

Cathy Prowse, who spent 25 years with the CPS including a stint with 
criminal intelligence, won't even dwell on how failed prohibition 
laws have further stacked the deck against our police.

"There's just too much money in it ... we have more supply than 
demand, though demand is good," is all she'll say.

While mustering admiration for her CPS colleagues is easy enough, 
Prowse, who left the force in 2003, offered a troubling synopsis of 
what they're up against.

Nailing street-level distributors is one thing.

Ultimately, local law enforcement is at the mercy of increasingly 
sophisticated and collaborative transnational "criminal business" 
networks, says Prowse.

"What we're seeing is co-operation of not just occidental or Latin 
American groups, but among all parts of the world, including 
Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe," says Prowse, who's done research 
on organized crime and even produced a handbook on criminal gangs she 
insists the CPS ignored in the mid-'90s.

"Players will come and go, but the structure stays."

In other words, what Calgarians and even police see in the local war 
on drugs is the tip of the iceberg.

"What we're seeing above the surface is very small ... once the 
structure is entrenched, you'll forever have these outbreaks of violence."

Caging transnational players is labour-intensive and once they've 
laundered their funds, "they're virtually impenetrable," she adds. 
"It's pretty discouraging."

Catapulting the violence is considered well worth the 8-10% cut of 
cocaine proceeds allotted to the local street gangsters, says Prowse.

Any hiatus in the gang wars, she adds, should be no comfort to 
Calgarians fearful of being caught in the crossfire. "Periods of calm 
are more like restructuring calm," says the ex-cop.

As for the drug war in South America, Prowse notes even pockets of 
success merely means cocaine producers set up shop in countries such 
as Bolivia and Peru.

That just contributes to the sensation Canadian police, including 
those in Calgary, "are sticking their fingers in a leaky dike," she says. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake