Relationship between Addiction to Narcotic Drugs and Crime


Through the combined efforts of local, State, and Federal law enforcement officials, and the co-operation of the public, substantial progress has been made against the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs.


Author: H. J. Anslinger
Pages: 1 to 3
Creation Date: 1951/01/01


Relationship between Addiction to Narcotic Drugs and Crime

H. J. Anslinger United States Commissioner of Narcotics, Representative of the United States to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs of the United Nations

Through the combined efforts of local, State, and Federal law enforcement officials, and the co-operation of the public, substantial progress has been made against the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs.

Before the passage of the first anti-opium law in 1909, addiction had become so widespread that imports of opium into the United States had reached the incredible amount of 628,177 pounds annually for 50 million population (this included 148,168 pounds of smoking opium, for which there is no medical use), whereas not more than 50,000 pounds would have been necessary then for medical purposes. In some of the country towns morphine and opium were sold by the grocers in large quantities. Addiction extended from the criminal underworld even to the so-called higher classes of the community and many were the crimes perpetrated by cocaine crazed habitues.

Imports of narcotic drugs are now limited by the U.S. Bureau of Narcotics to strictly medical purposes, and average 350,000 pounds annually for 150 million people. Information indicates that the number of persons addicted to narcotic drugs has decreased by at least one-half since present policies went into force. The foregoing statement is not intended to convey the impression that we are not still confronted with a serious situation worthy of our best attention.

Some local law-enforcement officers will be able to contrast their experience with traffickers in narcotics many years ago, and their recollection of the traffic at that time, with the more favourable situation which exists today. During the First World War, one man in 1,500 was rejected because of drug addiction. During the Second World War, the Army Service Forces reported that roughly one man in 10,000 selective-service registrants examined for military duty was rejected primarily because of drug addiction.

However, due to post-war developments and conditions peculiar to certain localities, we are finding instances where there has recently been retrogression and our hard-earned gains are being endangered.

There has been a disturbing revival in the heroin traffic to this country from the foreign ports which supply our illicit traffic, and violators must be more severely dealt with by the courts if we are to hold the line on addiction, and not lose ground.

The problem of narcotic drugs should be of vital interest to all law-enforcement officers. That crime and narcotics are interwoven is illustrated by the fact that violators of the narcotic laws head the list of all criminals in the United States having previous fingerprint records. This list includes persons convicted of offences ranging from vagrancy to robbery, forgery, counterfeiting, burglary, and other crimes. Of the narcotic-law violators arrested during a recent year, 63 per cent had previous records and arrests, whereas in the general arrests 42 per cent of the persons arrested had previous fingerprint records. In a study we made of a considerable group, taken at random from the records, it was learned that the first arrest for offences other than violation of the law on narcotics preceded, sometimes by as much as eight to ten years, the time when addiction to narcotic drugs, began. This confirmed a study conducted by the United States Public Health Service wherein the fact was forcibly brought out that a criminal addict was, in the vast majority of cases, a criminal before he became addicted; in fact, in 225 cases studied at that time, every criminal among them had committed some crime before the use of narcotics was begun.

From our studies, it can definitely be concluded that drug addiction is one of the later phases of the career of the criminal addict (but this study applied only to addiction to opium and its derivatives, and not to marihuana, the use of which is frequently a prelude to crime).

On 30 June 1949, out of a total prison population of 18,531 convicted of Federal offences, 1,759 were serving sentences imposed under the Federal laws relating to narcotic drugs and marihuana. With 2 per cent of the Federal personnel concerned with enforcing criminal laws, the Bureau of Narcotics accounts for approximately 10 per cent of the commitments to Federal prisons.

For every agent in the field service of the Narcotics Bureau, there are confined in the Federal penitentiaries and other institutions ten convicted violators of the laws on narcotics. Many of these convicts have some of the worst criminal records in the United States for major crimes.

It is well established that a large proportion of the pickpocket artists, the shoplifters, the professional gamblers and card sharks, the Confidence men operating fake horse race or fake stock sale schemes, the "short con" men such as the "short change artists" or the coin matchers, are addicted to the use of narcotic drugs. By the very nature of their criminal activities, they are required to be migratory and could be classed as roving criminals. No community seems to be entirely free of their depradations and activities. Particularly is this true of tourist centres and other places where large crowds congregate.

A skilled gang of pickpockets can steal and will steal an average of sixty pocketbooks a day, and a good day's work will net them $1,500 or more. The "elite" of the confidence men, preying on the gullible, may have incomes that reach really impressive figures.

The records of criminals, of the type referred to, usually disclose numerous arrests; but it is interesting to note that in the majority of cases the charges were merely vagrancy or suspicion. This no doubt was due to the very nature of their criminal activities, which makes it difficult to apprehend them in the commission of the crimes in which they specialize, and still more difficult to obtain sufficient evidence to secure a successful prosecution. The criminal is released from custody by the posting of a small cash bond and as a rule fails to appear to answer the charges.

In view of the high percentage of addiction among these criminals, it is suggested that a thorough and systematic search for narcotic drugs be made of their persons, effects, baggage, rooms, and automobiles. The search should be conducted by at least two officers, not only for completeness but to assure corroboration in case of prosecution. It should be thoroughly systematic from the head to the feet. The suspect should be disrobed and his wearing apparel minutely examined. (The disrobing is important because narcotic drugs have frequently been found attached to intimate and other parts of the prisoners anatomy.) They also have been found concealed in hat-bands, neckties, seams of clothing, hidden small pockets in coats, vests, trousers, and also in the cuffs of the trousers, in fountain pens and watches, as well as in the heels and inner soles of shoes. These suggestions apply to female as well as to male suspects.

Instances have occurred where pockets of trousers, handkerchiefs, and sheets of paper have been saturated with a concentrated solution of a narcotic, thus assuring a supply in case of arrest and detention. These devices are known in the vernacular as sachets.

The search of rooms and living quarters presents a more difficult problem due to the ease with which narcotic drugs can be concealed. Here a thorough and systematic search should be conducted, starting with some focal point. Narcotics have been found hidden in the bottoms of talcum-powder cans and other cosmetic containers, fixtures, bedsteads, window-sills, chandeliers, door knobs, rear of dresser drawers, secret plants in the woodwork, and many other places too numerous to mention.

Baggage and trunks should be searched for secret compartments.

Narcotics have been found concealed in hub-caps, rear of headlights, spare tyres and tubes, and many other secret places in automobiles. Under certain circumstances, vehicles used for the transportation and concealment of narcotic drugs can be seized and forfeited to the United States Government.

Often local officers can be of considerable assistance if, when arresting dealers in narcotics, they will look particularly for indications of the source of supply of the drugs. Most drugs in the illicit traffic must be smuggled into the country originally and, therefore, it follows that dealers and users of drugs inland must be supplied from coastal or border points. Sometimes deliveries are made by dealers in person but often drugs may be shipped by mail, express, or baggage. Often upon the persons or premises of an arrested dealer will be found communications, usually written in a guarded manner, as well as telephone numbers and addresses. Since whole- sale dealers in illicit narcotics, in distributing centres, often play a comparatively safe game by shipping their wares to distant points only, without catering to any local trade, information of the sort indicated, if conveyed to the proper authorities may prove to be particularly helpful in locating, and eventually apprehending distant wholesalers. In this connexion, it should be borne in mind that ordinary trade or geographical considerations do not always govern the distribution of illicit narcotic drugs. Someone on the Pacific Coast, close to a seaport where, ordinarily, it would be thought that narcotics would be available, may nevertheless send to New York for his illicit drugs because of price or personal considerations. Relevant documentary evidence, as well as all narcotic drugs found, should be duly identified by all the seizing or searching officers, in order to ensure its acceptance as evidence in court.

In carrying out enforcement activities against those who are both criminals and addicts, the utmost caution should be exercised, and the officer should never relax his guard for a moment, otherwise tragedy may ensue from the viciousness and recklessness of this type of criminal.

On Sunday morning, 24 September 1950, our Narcotic District Supervisor Anker M. Bangs was shot to death by a narcotic addict while search was being made of the addict's living quarters. This is merely one example from hundreds of cases in which law-enforcement officers have been killed or grievously wounded by drug addicts.