Counter-attack on cocaine trafficking : the strategy of drug law enforcement

Sections

ABSTRACT
Priorities
Cocaine availability and abuse
Cocaine-related crimes
Corruption
Economic consequences
Measures to cope with the problem
Task forces against organized crime
Control of chemicals
Sentencing policy
Concluding remarks

Details

Author: RONALD J. CAFFREY
Pages: 57 to 63
Creation Date: 1984/01/01

Counter-attack on cocaine trafficking : the strategy of drug law enforcement

RONALD J. CAFFREY Chief, Cocaine Investigations Section, United States Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Washington, D. C., United States of America

ABSTRACT

In the past cocaine was abused by the affluent and the famous members of society while at present it is widely abused by people in all social strata. Both abuse and availability of cocaine are increasing in the United States of America. Cocaine traffickers possess enormous assets, financial resources and means of transport that enable them to remain in operation. The incidence of violent activities, including homicides, is higher among cocaine traffickers than among traffickers in other drugs. Certain cocaine-related criminal groups are routinely engaged in wanton violence. Cocaine trafficking is closely connected with various sorts of crime, corruption and subversive activities.

Suppression of cocaine traffic is among the most important priorities of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Coca plant eradication is regarded as the most effective weapon against cocaine trafficking. DEA special agents, in co-operation with their counterparts from concerned countries, are conducting intelligence exchange, International cocaine investigations and training programmes in cocaine. Source areas. The United States Government has focused on coordination of efforts of various concerned agencies at the federal, state and local levels to combat d rug abuse and trafficking. The Department of Justice has mandated the establishment of law enforcement coordinating councils throughout the United States to ensure appropriate utilization of prosecution resources and to co-ordinate criminal investigative efforts. Task forces against organized crime are established in 12 key areas of the country. Control of precursors and essential chemicals that are used for clandestine drug manufacturing is one among other measures currently being undertaken by the Government to suppress trafficking in cocaine and other drugs.

Priorities

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) currently addresses a broad spectrum of drug abuse and trafficking problems as a matter of priority. Investigative emphasis and programming are based on national drug abuse patterns, local drug trafficking conditions and the recognized need to devote particular attention to the control of substances which pose the greatest threat to the population. In establishing drug enforcement plans and resource allocations for 1984/85 , DEA management has reviewed cocaine abuse and trafficking world-wide in order to establish priorities in the light of current drug availability and the attendant hazards to public health, social institutions, and public integrity.

As in past years DEA continues to focus its counter-measures on heroin - a policy developed as a result of the dramatic increase in heroin trafficking from south-east and south-west Asia. At present, however, the impact of the illicit traffic in heroin and certain dangerous drugs seems less severe than the effects of cocaine availability and usage on the United States and other countries. Heroin abuse and trafficking in the United States are generally limited to traditional geographic areas and, in terms of drug related injuries and collateral street crime, have an impact which is usually localized within large urban areas. Cocaine, on the other hand, is being abused throughout the United States on an epidemic scale.

Cocaine availability and abuse

Daily newspapers frequently report on the extent and consequences of cocaine abuse, but the public, perhaps weary of media scare tactics, has grown to accept the drug. Medical evidence has confirmed the health hazards of cocaine abuse, which in the past was restricted to the affluent and the famous, but is now widespread among all social strata. Cocaine availability and abuse are spreading at an alarming rate among youth. Some of their role models, professional athletes and entertainment celebrities, openly advertise if not advocate cocaine use. Unfortunately, young people have been misled by such propaganda and by the myth that cocaine use is harmless. Current estimates indicate that approximately 60 metric tonnes of cocaine hydrochloride are illegally imported into the United States annually. Coca bush cultivation and cocaine availability and abuse are clearly expanding at accelerated rates.

Cocaine-related crimes

The human tragedies caused by the large quantities of illegally imported cocaine are obvious from a medical and social point of view. While heroin trafficking has been clearly connected with street violence, statistical evidence shows that there is a higher incidence of violent activity among cocaine traffickers than among traffickers in other drugs. Information gathered during the DEA special study of drug-related homicide in Miami, Los Angeles and New York clearly showed the dominance of cocaine-related homicides and assaults. DEA intelligence reports confirm that cocaine related organized criminal groups from Colombia tend to engage in wanton violence against all perceived adversaries, their families, employees, and other innocent associated persons. A considerable number of drug-related homicides have been recently committed by cocaine traffickers in Miami, Los Angeles and New York. In those cities traffickers have used automatic weapons and routinely engaged in decapitations, mutilations and infanticide, often in broad daylight before witnesses in public malls, on highways and in night-clubs.

Considerable financial resources are brought to bear in underworld action against undercover agents. Such violence extends to both spontaneous and planned acts against law en forcement officers. I t shows a contempt for authority among underworld elements which have usually gained entry into the United States as a result of illegal border crossings. DEA investigations indicate that a significant proportion of cocaine traffickers from Colombia operating in the United States are illegal immigrants. These criminals possess immense cash resources and are able to travel unimpeded throughout the country to engage in clandestine activities. Such infiltration leads to other forms of criminal and potentially subversive activities which represent a serious threat to national security.

Besides threatening public health and safety, cocaine trafficking is siphoning off billions of dollars from the United States annually. This has been clearly visible in south Florida, where a currency drain has been created by the laundering and transfer of assets of traffickers through the United States, the Cayman Islands and South American banks and also by currency exchanges. Cocaine trafficking has been established as the most lucrative criminal enterprise, with cocaine selling for approximately $US 45,000 per kilogram on the illicit wholesale market in the United States in l 983, and with an escalating volume of available supply. because illicit cocaine, cannabis and clandestinely manufactured methaqualone share common sources of supply in Colombia and elsewhere in Latin America, assets of traffickers from all the illegal enterprises tend to be intertwined at every level of the smuggling and money-laundering chain. The funds therefore support the illicit drug traffic in a manner similar to legitimate businesses which further their expansion by merging, partnership and the reinvestment of profits. An insidious side-effect of the operations of the illegal enterprises is that profits from one drug category perpetuate and expand the trafficking in other drugs in a vicious unending cycle.

Corruption

Another side-effect of cocaine trafficking is the endemic corruption created by the great wealth of various trafficking groups. Corruption involving banks, businesses and regulatory and law en forcement agencies is escalating in the United States and other countries. Corruption has been known to exist at high levels in countries where coca plants are grown, virtually guaranteeing unending supplies of coca paste from clandestine laboratories. In some countries drug-related corruption is undermining the social fabric.

Cocaine-related crime is influencing politics in countries where criminal groups are aligned with subversive elements. Foreign-based cocaine traffickers currently possess huge supplies, licences obtained through corruption, aircraft, boats, vehicles and clandestine domestic and foreign properties which enable them to remain in operation. The corruptive influence of cocaine trafficking represents a serious threat to the political institutions, business communities and criminal justice systems of the United States and other countries in which cocaine is abused.

Economic consequences

There is now an enormous resource drain from the south-eastern United States resulting directly from cocaine and other drug trafficking. Millions of dollars are being spent by the United States military forces, Coast Guard, Customs Service, DEA and Federal bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the war on drugs in south Florida. The enforcement efforts are placing a great strain on prisons, courts of law and local law enforcement units. The financial and human resources drain is the direct effect of measures to deal with cocaine trafficking, which has become a long-term law enforcement problem.

Measures to cope with the problem

The problem will continue until it is ultimately solved through coca eradication. The eradication of illicit crops is the most effective weapon and a key to the suppression of foreign drug trafficking.

While supply reduction through coca eradication rests with foreign countries where the coca plant is grown, the United States Government has attempted to achieve more immediate results through a variety of interagency initiatives both in the United States and abroad. United States eradication initiatives are in various stages of development in Colombia, Bolivia and Peru, which are the principal coca source areas. DEA special agents assigned to United States embassy teams in the countries concerned are expanding drug intelligence exchange and conducting, with their foreign police counterparts, international cocaine investigations and training programmes.

The liaison programme is providing DEA with important strategic and operational intelligence necessary for complex drug investigations and programmes focused at the highest level of the traffic. Resource assistance provided by the United States Department of State and DEA to foreign Governments and police organizations has strengthened the joint efforts against drug abuse. In the United States, the combined efforts of DEA, FBI, the Customs Service, the Coast Guard, the Air Force, the Navy, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Immigration and Nationalization Service are supporting the action of the South Florida Task Force.

In I 983 the National Narcotics border Interdiction was established by the President of the United States in six strategic locations. This multiagency interdiction programme is designed to co-ordinate intelligence and facilitate the provision of resources from a number of United States civilian and military agencies. ..

In 1 984 cocaine investigations and suppression programmes are among the most important priorities of DEA. In a mounting effort to refine and develop the United States drug enforcement programme, DEA has organized its former Office of Enforcement into the following four functional sections within the Operations Division: Heroin, Cocaine, Dangerous Drugs and Cannabis. This reorganization, which was implemented in 1982, is intended to promote an improved management system. The routine duties of the Cocaine Section encompass case monitoring, co-ordination, evaluation and control of all resources devoted to the cocaine problem in a manner consistent with agency enforcement work plans. The Section is also responsible for policy formulation and implementation, and for the initiation of special enforcement operations aimed at disrupting and reducing clandestine cocaine manufacturing, imports and domestic trafficking.

The DEA El Paso Intelligence Center, a multi-agency intelligence cooperative, continues to provide DEA offices and other federal and local bodies with operational drug-smuggling intelligence data on a routine basis. The I 8 DEA state and local task forces in the United States address local trafficking problems and support extended drug investigative programmes in areas of minimal DEA presence. The combined action of federal and local officers provides a training mechanism which has resulted in the development of expertise in drug investigations among local narcotics officers. DEA is planning to establish l I additional state and local units in 1984 - 1985.

The implementation of FBI concurrent jurisdiction in federal drug investigations has produced increased technical and human investigative resources for the fight against major trafficking organizations. The combined efforts of DEA and the FBI in investigations throughout the country has resulted in more than 700 joint drug investigations. More than 50 per cent of the cases involve cocaine traffickers. The FBI also has 58 field divisions and sub-offices providing extended investigative coverage to areas of the country where the DEA's presence is minimal or non-existent.

DEA, FBI and United States Treasury Department initiatives focusing on the financial assets of cocaine and other drug traffickers have been under way for some time and continue to develop and expand in a number of operations designed to immobilize drug offenders and their resources. Specifically, the objectives of the operations are to imprison major traffickers and to freeze or confiscate their financial assets, thereby depriving them and their illegal organizations of essential reinvestment capital. The investigations are being vigorously conducted by federal prosecutors in association with drug conspiracy cases, and are based on a variety of federal, criminal and civil statutes. In fiscal year 1983, DEA special agents were responsible for the removal of more than $US 197 million in assets of drug traffickers.

The United States Department of Justice has mandated the establishment of law enforcement co-ordinating councils throughout the United States. The Attorney General has instructed United States Attorneys to oversee the councils in order to ensure appropriate utilization of prosecutive resources and co-ordinated criminal investigative efforts. The purpose is to ensure appropriate management of law enforcement resources, especially in areas with high rates of drug abuse.

Task forces against organized crime

In October 1982 the President of the United States announced the establishment of the Organized Crime/Drug Enforcement Task Forces in 12 key areas of the United States. This programme is designed to integrate and co-ordinate the resources of nine federal agencies in a concerted action against major drug-trafficking organizations operating in the United States. The participating agencies include the Office of the United States Attorney General, DEA, FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, the Customs Service, the Coast Guard, the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the United States Marshals Service, with assistance from various state and local law enforcement agencies. They are employing all the resources and expertise at their command against criminal groups.

Control of chemicals

A routine practice in clandestine drug manufacture is the use of precursors and essential chemicals. Over the years, DEA has developed a programme on precursors and essential chemicals in concert with the legitimate manufacturing industry and with an international community of drug control experts and law enforcement agencies. The strategies and cooperation developed within these programmes are aimed at statutory or regulatory control over the sale of excessive amounts of specific chemicals to suspected drug trafficking organizations. Depriving clandestine laboratory operators of essential chemicals and precursors has proven to be an effective means of combating illicit supplies of controlled substances.

Sentencing policy

In 1982 a United States district judge in a north-eastern city, in pronouncing sentence on a prominent motion picture producer convicted for complicity in a cocaine case, ordered the defendant to initiate a media event extolling the virtues of a drug-free life-style. As a result, a number of television and motion picture celebrities participated in a "Get high on life" campaign which was promoted over the national television network. This is an outstanding example of judicial attempts to fit legal sanctions not only to the offence but to the individual, and to create a more far-reaching impact by giving remedial social responsibilities to drug offenders.

For many years law enforcement officials have contended against inadequate bail-setting practices and anomalies in the imposition of equitable sentences in drug cases. Today, however, a more in formed and better administered judiciary has begun to adopt a more practical approach to sentencing for criminal offences and to take into account the impact on available prison space and penal resources. Major traffickers can only be immobilized through imprisonment and forfeiture of their assets. However, this is only a partial cure for a national problem requiring more innovative approaches.

Concluding remarks

It is evident that the battle against cocaine abuse and trafficking must be fought on several fronts. Reduction of foreign sources of supply, international drug intelligence exchange, enhanced interdiction and selective investigative efforts, reduction in illicit drug demand and meaningful sentencing by the judiciary are all components which form the basis of current strategies against drug abuse and trafficking in the United States. These remedies must continue to expand and develop in a co-ordinated fashion if the current availability of cocaine and level of cocaine abuse in the United States are to be significantly reduced.