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In October 27, 1970, the United States Congress enacted the Controlled Substances Act, which was a provision of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. This act crated the Federal U.S. drug policy under which the manufacture, importation, possession, use and distribution of certain substances were to be regulated. In the next year, President Nixon declares a "War on Drugs", and classifies "illicit substances" as "public enemy number one". In 1973, the previous Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs was restructured as the Drug Enforcement Administration, or known more commonly as the DEA. Since then, they have become the premier drug enforcement organization in the world, and has confiscated billions of dollars' worth of money and drugs, the most common being marijuana and cocaine.
But the DEA cannot be in every place around the country. In order to keep up, local police departments have what are called Narcotics Units out on the street, and keep drug use down. Every day they would pick up people and bust them for possession of an illicit substance. But what happens when there is a drastic rise in drug overdoses. How does a police agency target and stop large scale drug operations? There are many cities where the drug operations are large enough that when the dangerous drugs start to hit the streets, the bodies start to pile up. How are police agencies supposed to counter these large scale rings? There are many tactics available, like the on the Plano Police Department in its battle against high use of Heroin amongst teenagers.
During the late 1990's, Plano TX was considered the Heroin capital of America, and from the years 1996-98, nineteen teenagers had died of a heroin overdose, and many more hospitalized because of non-fatal overdose. Heroin was being transferred across the border from Mexico, and found its way into a population of over 200,000 people, where the median household income is $55,000. It was the perfect place to introduce a new drug called Chiva, which was a powdered form of Heroin in a gel capsule. Ironic enough, Chive is Spanish for Heroin, but the people of Plano, especially the younger generation, were ignorant to its origins.
The narcotics unit started to question many of the kids who overdosed and lived as well as reaching out to friends and family of those who died of a heroin overdose. The investigators revealed that there was no actual demand for the drug in the beginning, but it was just enterprising dealers from Dallas who realized they could get rich off of the wealthy Plano kids who could afford the drug and were unaware to the seriousness of heroin's effects. The dealers would give away free samples in order to get costumers addicted, and not once was age a factor. Investigators also came to the realization that Plano's youth had no education at all about many hard drugs that were available on the streets. In the end, the investigators narrowed it all down to education. In order to fight the growing heroin problem, the police, school board, and the media, all formed a coalition in the efforts to educate the youth in the effects and dangers of drugs, educate parents and family what the signs were for drug use, and what to do when someone where to become addicted.
The cities response to the growing problem to the drug rate was to be swift. Officers knew that just busting the small time dealers was not going to be effective in the long run, and they knew that more drastic steps needed to be taken. In order to do that, the police more than doubled its police force, specifically its narcotics unit. A task force that included the DEA, the FBI, and the State Police all came together in order to carry out called Operation Chiva, and the first part of the operation was to voluntarily brand Plano as Heroin City, USA so as to take a marketing approach in order to educate the community. The city officials decided to get the media involved in order to bring awareness to its many working class citizens who were unaware that Heroin was an issue. They brought in their Demand Reduction Specialist, who just happened to be a Plano resident, to help utilize the media, as well as announce that a new drug tip hotline number was being established. The tip hotline was answered 24 hours a day and certain information was taken like names, license plate numbers, and addresses and put them into a database for the Narcotics unit to investigate.
While the city implemented high-profile drug-prevention programs in the schools, the task force decided to start taking a more aggressive enforcement policy when it investigated trace the heroin back to it source. All together, the task force aggressively tracked down dealers and managed to tally a total of 29 suspects who actively distributed heroin and were found to be deliberately contributing to Plano heroin overdose deaths.
At the same time Operation Chiva was happening, another undercover operation called Operation Rockfest was underway. A $14,000 undercover sting operation where fresh from the academy officers were to go undercover at local Plano Senior High as well as Plano East High School to gather information about drug problems in the school, as well as track down offenders on and off campus. One officer by the name of Ashley Lomen, whose actual identity is unknown, was a 28 year old narcotics officer that spent the summer before going deep undercover. She adopted the persona of a troubled, loner and made sure a pack of Marlboros could be seen out of her purse. It must have been too easy to fool the amateurish youth, because during the operation, With Ashley's and other agents Intel, the investigation confirmed that the most common way that the drugs were being introduced to the students was off campus at social events, such as parties. Rockfest started in fall in the year of 1997, and lasted for the remainder of the school year. During its mission, Ashley uncovered 84 cases for narcotics; with the average age of the defendant bring 19 years old. While the public was undergoing an effective awareness campaign, prosecutors from local to federal worked together to provide an aggressive prosecution strategy. Using a loophole in the State laws, prosecutors were able to prosecute the cases federally. Prosecutors asked that the judge add up to 15 years onto any sentence using a law that says dealers can be penalized if a fatal dose can be linked back to their drug supply.
The operation was considered a success, and in total, 19 students and 19 adults were arrested, which included members of the area's largest heroin ring. In July 1998, another sting netted 29 more suspected dealers of heroin and marked what Chief Glasscock of the Plano police department as an "end of the crisis". He later told reporters that the tactics used to clean up the streets were not going to be the final solution to the problem. "We displaced the problem, we didn't solve it,''(Gegax). Considering the success of the operation, it was not without its controversies. Many citizens were outraged at the lengths officers went in order to obtain their results. A juvenile, Jonathan Kollman, was busted buying heroin by undercover agents. Before Jonathan was arrested however, undercover officers drove him six different heroin dealers, gave him cash for the drug, and then allowed him to take the controlled substance. Before Jonathan succumbed to the undercover officer's offer, he had tested negative for drugs 12 times and was now enrolled in drug treatment and family counseling. Â Al Robinson, the Executive Director of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas,Â told reporters, "This is a perfect illustration of the craziness of the war on drugs; Police officers should be protecting kids, not hooking them on drugs."(Gegax).
There are six main goals of police action against drug traffickers, and they are,
"To reduce the gang violence associated with drug trafficking and prevent the emergence of powerful organized criminal groups; control the street crimes committed by drug users; improve the health and economic and social well-being of drug users; restore the quality of life in urban communities by ending street-level drug dealing; help to prevent children from experimenting with drugs; and to protect the integrity of criminal justice institutions" (Moore/Kleiman).
The most common enforcement strategy used by the Narcotics unit could be described as "expressive law enforcement." This is different from other strategies in that it takes all the activities in where the department is currently engaged and doubles them by a factor of two or three. If a city has a drug problem and it is getting worse, the response would be to simply increase the resources devoted to the problem. Special units would be created and tasked with street dealers, and patrol squads are encouraged to make more drug arrests. The problem with approaches like this is that largly the efforts taking by the police may be in vain if the community does not step up the plate and help enforce a drug free area. In the case of Plano, the community established programs in the PTA, neighborhood watches, and a kids Karate program called "Kick Drugs Out Of America". The program was founded by Chuck Norris as a way for kids to learn about discipline, respect and safety from drugs. Without programs such as these, the efforts of the police may have been undone if the community had not got involved to keep drugs out.
Another form of drug enforcement is known as "citywide, street-level drug enforcement"( Moore/Kleiman). It is when the police's main objective is to disrupt drug dealing that goes on in the open, and force it back underground by making it hard for buyer to find dealers. The police commonly use tactics such as "buy-and- bust operations, observation sale arrests, and arrests of users who appear in the market to buy drugs."(Moore). The problem with this strategy is that there is never enough man power in order to use this strategy in the most efficient way. Another drawback is that officers could arrest more traffickers than the justice system could process.
Drug trafficking and its use have challenged the police in every way to try and come up with an effective solution to the problem. However it seems that resources and capabilities of their departments at their fingertips is not enough to stem the flow of illegal drugs from flowing across our borders, and into our citizen's hands. Past approaches to the growing problem have relied on police resources to root out drug use, but it is when the community gets involved, then can the problem be solved. Great investigative sophistication and no small amount of force are required to deal with the traditional organized crime groups and the emergent gangs that now dominate the trade(