Pubdate: Wed, 15 Dec 1999
Source: Associated Press
Copyright: 1999 Associated Press
Author: David Ho, Associated Press Writer

U.S. Drug War Detailed in Report

WASHINGTON (AP) - Law enforcement agents fought a surge in methamphetamine
trafficking and use across the Midwest in 1999 by seizing hundreds of
secret drug labs, deflating the image of drugs as only an urban problem.

In the first half of this year, local and federal law enforcement seized
238 meth or ``speed'' labs in Kansas, 242 in Iowa and 223 in Missouri,
according to a report released today detailing the government's anti-drug
efforts across the nation.

``We do not just have a national drug problem. What we really have is a
series of local drug epidemics,'' said Barry McCaffrey, the
administration's drug policy chief.

McCaffrey planned to discuss the report today at a conference for
drug-control leaders in Washington.

The report describes the government's war on drugs in 31 battlegrounds,
called High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. From the Mexican border to
the streets of New York, these areas have been selected over the last
decade as regions with serious drug problems that also harm other areas of
the country.

In the high trafficking areas, local, state, federal and military law
enforcement agencies work together on various projects to oppose illegal
drug use and distribution.

After starting with a federal investment of $25 million shared among five
regions in 1990, the program will divide more than $190 million in 2000.

The report said that in the Northeast, despite dramatic drops in crime, the
New York-New Jersey area remains a ``Mecca'' for narcotics trafficking.
While all drugs can be found in the area, heroin and cocaine dominate the
scene because of the profits and potential violence they generate. The
demand for crack has fallen, but it is still available and being actively

Area law enforcement agencies have turned high-tech in recent years,
creating a computer network containing photographs of every person arrested
on state or federal charges in New York City and Westchester and Nassau

In Appalachia, the area containing Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia,
marijuana is ``the number one cash crop,'' the report said. The three
states produce over 1.6 million outdoor marijuana plants - over 40 percent
of the nationwide total.

While much of the marijuana is cultivated in remote mountainous regions,
growers are increasingly moving indoors. Traffickers use vehicles with
complex hidden compartments to transport the drugs.

Since being designated a high trafficking area last year, law enforcement
agencies have made almost 2,000 arrests and have destroyed nearly half a
million marijuana plants.

Among the 31 high trafficking areas ranging from Hawaii to New England, the
report also found:

- - An increasing amount of Canadian grown marijuana is being smuggled across
the border into the United States. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police
estimate the annual production at 800 tons. The marijuana is often
exchanged for cocaine.

- - Metropolitan Atlanta is the nation's major southeast distribution point
for methamphetamine, which is smuggled in as a finished product from areas
including California and northern Mexico.

- - In central Florida, heroin is an increasing problem, with the number of
heroin-related deaths in the Orlando area tripling since 1994.

- - Chicago is a major drug trafficking hub for Mexican, Colombian and
Nigerian criminal organizations, but street gangs account for most of the
local drug distribution.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake