Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXVII, No. 567, 568 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY December 15/31, 2001

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In this issue:

Frozen moments: Images from 2001.
DARE officials yield on the issue of curriculum overhaul.
Reduced funding for policing’s “secret weapon.
Terror attacks prove little deterrent for drug traffic.
USA’s porous borders get a second look.
A regular riot: Troubles aplenty in Cincinnati and elsewhere.
A change in fortunes for a troubled FBI.
800 megahertz seems like an unlucky number.
Facing up to some harsh new surveillance realities.
Racial profiling is more than just a black and white issue.
Policing goes back and forth on college requirements.
Can the thin blue line get much thinner?
How terror attacks added to a shifting gun-control landscape.
The tug of war between police and the media over privacy issues.
Legislating against terror with the 2001 Patriot Act.
People & Places: Some of the personalities who made their mark on 2001.
DNA concerns widen and deepen the gene pool.
Judges and legislatures still wrestle with nuances of the sex-offender issue.
Militias have dwindled, but there’s still plenty of hate out there.
Who’s looking over policing’s shoulders? It seems like just about everybody.
Columbine is history, but school violence persists.
Order in the court: The Justices have their say.
Giant technological leaps sometimes come in small packages.
Justice by the Numbers: A statistical profile of criminal justice in the post-Sept. 11 era.

 
2001 — the year in review:
Funding cut for a police “secret weapon”

      Funding for the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services took a beating in 2001, with President Bush proposing a 17-percent reduction in funding for the program, yet the concept of community policing remained alive and well around the country. And in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, community policing took on even greater importance as chiefs touted their efforts as local law enforcement’s secret weapon against terrorism.

      In April, funding for the COPS office was set to drop from $1.03 billion to $855 million. Republicans at the time said that the Clinton administration’s 1994 initiative had run its course. After meeting its goal of putting nearly 100,000 new officers on the street, they said, the money should be put toward other programs, including an initiative to help schools hire 1,500 new security officers and upgrade police technology and crime labs.

      Six months later, community policing initiatives were being held up by chiefs as the nation’s “No. 1 line of defense.” Minneapolis Police Chief Robert K. Olson, president of the Police Executive Research Forum, was one of many chiefs who expressed concern that the concept of community policing not get lost in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. With hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern immigrants resettled in major cities, he said, law enforcement should enhance community ties and work to establish positive communication with newcomers.

      His assertion was echoed by chiefs Michael Chitwood of Portland, Maine, and Chris Magnus of Fargo, N.D. Said Chitwood: “We’re certainly going to continue the community policing program. We have a very extensive program and I think we need it now more than ever.”

      A strong partnership with the community, said Magnus, allows the department to rely on the public to be alert to suspicious activities.

      One frequent adjunct to community policing, the “Broken Windows” theory, was challenged in February by a National Institute of Justice study which posited that trust amongst neighbors plays a far greater role in the suppression of crime than addressing external signs of disorder.

      Researchers Stephen W. Raudenbush of the University of Michigan and Robert J. Sampson of the University of Chicago found poverty to be the single most important influential factor in determining the level of community disorder. A “collective efficiency,” or combination of community cohesion and informal social control exerted by residents, can be a mitigating factor. Observed disorder was low in those neighborhoods where residents acted as “guardians,” the study noted.

      Dr. George L. Kelling, a professor of criminal justice at Rutgers University who co-authored both the original “broken windows” study and a followup, harshly criticized the authors’ methodology and accused them of using their misinterpretation of his study to “catapult their own ideas faster further.” Neither he nor his co-authors, James Q. Wilson and Catherine M. Coles, advocate a “tougher broken windows approach,” he said. In fact, said Kelling, he and Coles went out of their way in the followup study, “Fixing Broken Windows,” to disavow any “high-handed police tactics.”

      Around the country, police agencies continued to launch new community policing initiatives which served to reinforce their commitment to the philosophy:

       In Putnam County, W.Va., the sheriff’s department in October implemented Operation Are You OK?, a program aimed at ensuring that the jurisdiction’s elderly or disabled residents are safe.

      The Clearwater, Fla., Police Department, in conjunction with a local social service agency, purchased a plot of land it will turn into a playground. The groundbreaking was to take place on Sept. 22.

      Justice Department officials in March cited the Rock Hill, S.C., Police Department’s community policing programs as one of nine model approaches to applying the concept.

       East Hartford, Conn., Police Chief Mark J. Sirois eliminated the agency’s public housing outreach division in June so that a community policing concept could be integrated departmentwide.

      Virginia Tech campus Police Chief Debra Duncan in October presented a new mission statement that emphasizes “developing partnerships.” The shift to a community-oriented approach was met with skepticism from both officers and students.

      Santa Ana, Calif., police in October held a street fair in culmination of Operation Orion, a federally-funded program that resulted in dozens of drug and weapons arrests.

      Nearly nine out of 10 Lake Oswego, Ore., residents surveyed by the police department said they want officers to interact more with residents outside of their patrol cars. Visibility was the most beneficial use of police time, according to 36 percent sampled, while 32 percent cited working with children and teens.

      Marietta, Ga., police began handing out trading cards to children as part of an ongoing community outreach program. Collecting nine cards will earn a child a friendly visit from an officer at their school and a tour of police headquarters.

      The Key Largo, Fla., Police Department in September launched a program that uses volunteers to check on vacationing residents’ homes. The goal of the initiative was to curb a burgeoning burglary problem which grew from 187 incidents during the first six months of 2000 to 202 during the same period last year.

      Under a plan presented in November by the Los Angeles Police Department and a community leaders, bilingual officers will be assigned for one year each to the section of the Boyle Heights neighborhoods that falls between the Los Angeles River and the Santa Ana Freeway. Also included in the project is the 24-hour presence of at least two officers in the area.

Drug traffic rolls on despite terror

      Drug traffickers might have been deterred immediately following the events of Sept. 11, but they did not stay that way for long, as shown by a double-digit increase in the number of seizures made at the nation’s borders and ports of entry during October and November of 2001.

      In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks, seizures of marijuana and heroin from Mexico plummeted by an estimated 80 percent. At the Canadian border, there was a 60-percent drop in seizures of Ecstasy and high-grade marijuana. But a Coast Guard spokesman said the agency is interdicting drugs at sea at almost pre-Sept. 11 levels. Joint patrols involving the Coast Guard and the Navy resulted in the seizures of two shipments from vessels off the Pacific Coast of Central America.

      And along the Canadian border, agents seized 326 percent more drugs from trucks, ships and planes than during the previous October and November. The overall increase was 66 percent at all borders and ports of entry.

      In New York, agents for the office of the city’s special narcotics prosecutor, Bridget G. Brennan, seized 1,679 pounds of cocaine between Sept. 11 and Dec. 30, compared with 1,082 pounds during that same period in 2000; 725 pounds of marijuana as compared to a pound and a half; and 302,000 Ecstasy pills as compared with 1,011. Brennan said her office also seized $4.2 million in drug trafficking money as compared with $600,000 during the same three months last year.

      “There has been a definite unintended consequence of the effort against terror: we are doing a better job of keeping illegal drugs out of the United States,” said Customs Service Commissioner Robert C. Bonner.

      But it is unclear whether the increase means that federal agencies are intercepting a bigger share of the total volume of drugs smuggled into the U.S., or that traffickers are simply sending more. “It could be either, or both,” Joe Keefe, chief of operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration, told The New York Times. “It’s too early to tell.”

      What is known by now, however, is that drug prices and availability have not fallen, despite the heightened security. It is far too early to know yet what effect the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan will have on the heroin supply. Afghanistan produces about 75 percent of the world’s heroin, with most of that going to Western Europe.

      Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske told The Times that the steady prices of drugs in his city indicate that “estimates of what is coming into the country may have been wrong and that far more drugs were coming into the country than we were aware of.”

      And problems caused by drugs produced within the country, such as methamphetamine and the prescription painkiller OxyContin, did not disappear in the aftermath of the attacks.

      OxyContin, a synthetic morphine used to treat chronic pain from cancer and other illnesses, was identified last year by law enforcement authorities as the next big narcotic scourge. In some regions, it has appeared to live up to those expectations.

      Dubbed “hillbilly heroin,” the drug produces an intense high when the 12-hour time-release mechanism in its coating is crushed. Users than snort the drug or inject it.

      In 2001, police along the Eastern Seaboard found themselves responding to dozens of pharmacy robberies in cities from Maine to Virginia. OxyContin has been blamed for more than 100 deaths nationwide and is suspected in at least 100 more since it came on the market in 1996. Several residents of Lee County, Va., pleaded guilty in October to selling more than $2.5 million worth of OxyContin over a three-year period. The arrests followed a yearlong investigation by law enforcement agencies in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

      Virginia State Police in April investigated the theft of $12,000 worth of the drug from a Fairfax pharmacy, and a man was arrested in Manassas after allegedly stealing 90 bottles of the painkiller from a Fauquier County drug store. Other incidents last year involving the drug included a man arrested by the Summit County, Ohio, Sheriff’s Office for using a butcher’s knife to steal 1,400 pills.

      In the Midwest and Far West, authorities hoping to stop the spread of methamphetamine called on non-law enforcement personnel for additional help. State officials in Nebraska enlisted the assistance of farmers and farm co-op employees by presenting a meth lab recognition class in March for some 50 employees to raise awareness of the products used to make the drug, such as the fertilizer anhydrous ammonia.

      Elsewhere in 2001:
      Missouri State Senator Anita Yeckel (R.-Sunset Hills) said in March she would sponsor a measure to restrict the amount of pseudoephedrine that could be sold by retailers. The drug, found in cold medication, is an ingredient in meth production. The bill would ban the sale of more than three packages in a single transaction.

      The St. Charles County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department will use a $95,256 grant from the DEA to hire personnel and buy equipment under an emergency “methamphetamine hot spots agreement” approved in February by the County Council.

      A home-based meth “factory” in South Riverside, Calif., believed to have been producing $3 million of the drug per week was shut down by police in March. The search warrant was executed after a six-month investigation by the West County Narcotics Task Force.

      Over the past 10 years, the number of those seeking treatment for methamphetamine abuse in Utah County, Utah, has increased by 5,000 percent.

      Researchers last year reported that the brains of methamphetamine addicts remain permanently damaged even after they stop taking the drug. A study released in March by The American Journal of Psychiatry was the first to find a direct link between meth use and learning and memory deficits. Addicts were found to have nearly 25 percent less dopamine, a brain chemical that regulates pleasure and movement, than non-users.

      There was action by lawmakers at the federal, state and local levels, too, as old drug laws were reviewed and new measures enforced:

      New York Gov. George Pataki proposed in February that the state’s harsh Rockefeller-era drug laws be revised. Under Pataki’s plan — which by year’s end had not been carried out — mandatory prison sentences would have been reduced; treatment options made available for nonviolent repeat offenders; and a modicum of discretion returned to sentencing judges. Pataki’s initiative was criticized by the state’s district attorneys association, which considers the sentencing laws a highly effective tool in combating drug trafficking.

      As many as 42,000 applicants for federal student loans could be affected by the enforcement of a law which denies financial aid to those who either admit to a recent drug conviction or leave the question blank on the aid applications. Representative Barney Frank (D.-Mass.) led a campaign last year to have the measure repealed. In February, Frank introduced legislation that would overturn the law.

      The 2002 budget unveiled by President Bush in March proposed slashing the Drug Elimination Program, a $310-million initiative administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which funds law enforcement and crime prevention initiatives in the nation’s public housing.