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Use task force tactics to get the drug lords

(Published October 28, 2002)

There was a sardonic comment circulating around the District shortly after sniper suspects John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo were arrested last week. While metropolitan area residents breathed a heavy sigh of relief that the three-week spree of random killings had ended, many D.C. residents also observed that the arrests meant that life in the District could now return to its normal level of being terrorized.

They weren't talking about Osama bin Laden and some band of international terrorists. They were talking about the local drug dealers and their associates whose illegal trade drives much, if not most, of the violent and non-violent crime perpetrated on the streets of the nation's capital.

Most D.C. residents live or work in an environment that means they cannot traverse their regular routes without encountering "bad" neighborhoods on their way to "good" ones.

Few D.C. residents' lives haven't been touched in some direct or ancillary way by drug-driven illegal acts. Perhaps their home or vehicle was broken into or a friend was robbed at a bus stop, or in a parking lot, by someone seeking money to buy drugs or settle accounts with the local drug lord's enforcer.

When law enforcement authorities recently encouraged parents to accompany their children to school after a 13-year-old Bowie student became one of the sniper's victims, many D.C. parents didn't need to change their routine. They've known for years that many of the District's streets are unsafe for their children.

What we learned from the search for the sniper is that federal, state and local law enforcement authorities across jurisdictional lines really do have the skills and the technology to work together to solve crimes.

Those working relationships forged by members of the multi-agency sniper investigation task force should be extended. A similar task force should be formed to ferret out the people who are profiting from the illegal drug trade that flourishes here and in other urban areas across the country, destroying the lives of tens of thousands of Americans in its wake.

Reasonable people can disagree about the severity of our drug laws. But it has been obvious to the average American for decades that people in positions of authority are looking the other way as illegal drugs flood U.S. borders. It is equally obvious to D.C. residents that drug dealing is being condoned by authorities in certain parts of town.

Congress wastes millions of tax dollars annually on international drug interdiction efforts that hardly make a dent in stemming the street-level terror that illegal drugs inflict upon millions of Americans' lives. Those dollars need to be spent on supporting cooperative law enforcement efforts to shut down domestic drug markets by finding and prosecuting the people at the top - including any political leaders, judges and law enforcement personnel involved - and providing treatment on demand to help drug abusers and the addicted repair their lives.

Copyright 2002, The Common Denominator