Anti-Drug Initiative for
Balto.-DC Is Working Well

by Benjamin L. Cardin
U.S. Congressman, 3rd District

The Baltimore and Washington area is one of 15 locations that have been designated as a "high intensity drug trafficking area" (HIDTA) by the Director of National Drug Control Policy. I recently visited the HIDTA watch center in Greenbelt, MD to learn more about the drug threat that is plaguing our community.
Established in 1994, the goal of the Baltimore/Washington HIDTA program is to provide additional support to the law enforcement, criminal justice, and treatment and prevention professionals. The program has helped them develop a coordinated strategy to the drug problem that has rocked our cities.
The Baltimore/Washington HIDTA program has compiled important information about our current drug problem that has proved very useful. Here is some of what we have learned:

  • Heroin and cocaine are a serious problem in both cities, but Baltimore has a greater problem with heroin while the District has a greater problem with cocaine;
  • While marijuana is not as big a problem as heroin and cocaine, violent Jamaican drug traffickers have infiltrated the market. There also is growing evidence of increased marijuana use by our region's youth;
  • Most drug trafficking gangs are small and loosely organized;
  • Gangs that distribute drugs get their supply mostly from New York City or Washington, D.C.
The HIDTA program is unique because it coordinates information among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The HIDTA effort has proved very successful in analyzing telephone records and bank transfers to pinpoint drug traffickers.
The Baltimore/Washington program also has developed a strong prevention and treatment component that is producing results. It comes as no surprise that there is a strong correlation between drug use and crime. Yet, few localities target drug treatment programs to hard-core drug users.
In its effort to cut the crime rate, the HIDTA program has increased treatment capacity in our area by some 2,400 residential and outpatient slots, targeting hard-core users. The result has been a dramatic drop in the recidivism rate for those who have been through treatment.
In the Baltimore/Washington area, there are four HIDTA offices: Howard County; Greenbelt, MD; the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia. Since its inception, the Baltimore/Washington HIDTA program has resulted in the seizure of some $18.4 million in drug assets, and more than 3,600 arrests.
There are no easy solutions to our nation's drug problem, but the HIDTA program has provided a coordinated, well-thought-out strategy for targeting our region's most violent drug traffickers.

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This story was published on May 7, 1997.