U.S. DRUG CZAR IN TAMPA -Andrew Stelzer

07/23/04

The United States Drug czar was in Tampa today, to announce the Tampa bay area’s participation in a new 25 cities initiative; This initiatives stated goal is to reduce drug use among Americans by 10 percent in the next 2 years and 25 percent in the next 5 years. Drug czar John Walters appeared at the sunshine youth services drug treatment facility where he spoke to law enforcement officials and community agency representatives about the need to reduce both the supply and demand for drugs.

ACT "What we have learned is that we know how to do this...for example, when we close open air drug markets, there are more drugs, if we simply reduce supply, we have addicted individuals who will still...we have to reduce supply and demand..."

The secretary of the Florida department of juvenile justice introduced Walters; he said a major focus of the initiative will be on reducing drug use by America’s young people. In 2002, over 2000 thousand juveniles were arrested for drugs in the United States, but only 30 percent of the department’s delinquency prevention grant funding goes towards substance abuse prevention services. But Walters said reducing drug use isn’t hard, if the community commits itself to the task.

ACT "What we have to do with the drug problem is common sense, we have to reduce youth us...if we do is the simple ting we have to do is not expose our children to dangerous substances, and we change the ...it requires to use families, schools, community....whether it depends on treatment or ...it depends on the community support" ACT "The drug problem starts in the teenage years..were cutting down the pipeline.."

Tampa Bay has been chosen, along with 25 of the biggest cities in the country, to participate in the program, which will not bring any extra money for fighting drugs, but will mean that more statistics will be kept, and new initiatives will be encouraged. As part of a new Drug Abuse warning network system, in the Tampa Bay area, law enforcement agencies will work closer together to keep statistics on emergency room visits, and maps will be created to identify areas with high levels of drug sales and use. Police will also be monitoring prescription and over the counter drugs, and dietary supplements.

ACT "nationally 40 to 80 percent if drug use is on the cities, were not forgetting the rest."

One method of prevention Walters spoke very highly of was drug testing of school children. Walters' tour of the 25 targeted cities is being used by school districts throughout the country as a kick-off for mandatory drug testing programs.

ACT 'If we don’t want the use, lets intervene earlier..we use it in the military, we are offering this to young people in schools, in schools where it exists, it reduces drug use in schools, drug use stats in teenage years, they encourage friends to use..they start with a friend...it spreads as a virus because children..testing is not a substitute..and it radically reduces behavior where its applied. no single thing will reduce drug use, than testing in schools."

The ACLU distributed a book to educators across the country earlier this year called, Making Sense of Student Drug Testing: Why Educators are Saying No�; they say that testing in schools doesn’t reduce drug use and it is an invasion of students privacy and reduces trust between young people and adults. WMNF asked Jim Hill, president of sunshine youth services, what the young people he works with think are viable solutions to the drug problem.

ACT "Through various therapy sessions we get input...they feel that family foundations, poor choices...what about kids vs cops?...they are all inebriated when they talk to cops..."

Last year, the institute for policy studies issued a report called “the War on Drugs: Addicted to Failure�, it echoed the conclusions of the European Drug Policy Fund; WMNF asked Walters to respond to the widely held perception that the war on drugs has been a failure.

ACT "I think in a simple way thats silly...usually people who say that are failing to recognize the people who risk their lives every day....its not a failure, were safer were better off as a country, what that does reflect is a frustration that the problem is as large as it is. I think is horrifying that and turning the kids into victimizing...when we push back in appropriate ways it gets smaller..we need to stop treating it as if it either or..the drug problem is all about poisoning our children and enslaving our..."

WMNF also asked why a disproportionate number of people in prison for drugs are African American. According to the department of justice, in 2001, almost 57 percent of state prison inmates serving time for drug offenses were black.

'ACT 'The victims of these crimes are the same race...no one wants Americans in prison, but we also don’t want people victimizing..."

Major Jane Silene, the commander over major crimes and narcotics for the Tampa police had her own take on the reason so many black people are in jail for drug offenses.

ACT 'There have to be alternatives, there have to be alternative to incarceration, we cant be so reactive, we cant be so reactive.....so how do you respond...other countries..the US approach is not working...that’s a tough question..Im not sure how id respond...I’m not for legalizing, they start a trail...towards serious ..the US position on enforcement is right on track...but much more emphasis on prevention, and supply and emend, and especially on the illegal side...why are there so many African Americans in jail for drugs?....I cant speak for the court system...certainly when our enforcement..we find non afro Americans...I think the black community lends itself to drug activity, substandard housing, poor lighting, darkness...I know if I was a drug dealer in my neighborhood, I wouldn’t tolerate it. I think there’s so many different reasons for why that appears hat way, I know statically its born out that way, it has to do wit alack of resources...but were seeing a turnaround in East Tampa..

For information on the new 25 cities initiative, logon to www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/metroindicator/

Bill piper is director on national policy affairs for the national drug policy alliance, a group- which advocates for a sensible drug policy. WMNF asked him about John Walters, and his 25 cities program.

DPA

That was Bill Piper, director on national policy affairs for the national drug policy alliance. Their website is drugpolicyalliance.org

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