Rep. Stan Parris (R-Va.) and D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy called yesterday for creation of a Washington metropolitan authority to combat regional drug trafficking, saying the lack of coordination is hindering efforts to halt the local $1.5 billion-a-year drug trade.
The congressmen said the authority, to be called the Washington Metropolitan Area Drug Authority, would be modeled after the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which operates Metro.
If created, WMADA would be the first regional body in the nation set up to deal specifically with the sale of illicit narcotics, according to a Fauntroy aide.
Fauntroy introduced a resolution supporting establishment of the agency. If passed by Congress, the measure would be sent to local suburban governments and the Virginia and Maryland general assemblies for their consideration and approval.
Fauntroy said a regional approach is needed because the suburbs increasingly are becoming centers for manufacturing PCP, cutting heroin and cocaine and packaging marijuana. The city steets are used as pickup and delivery points, he said.
The use of narcotics "is less visual in the suburbs only because of the lack of street corners and gathering locations, and not because of a lesser degree of addiction and use," Fauntroy said.
Parris, appearing at a news conference with Fauntroy, disagreed with that point, saying the problem in the suburbs is of lesser magnitude.
Fauntroy and Parris, who are often at odds on issues involving the region, said they both strongly endorse the concept of a regional authority and believe there is substantial bipartisan support for the plan among local and state officials.
"This sounds like something that would deserve serious thought. My initial reaction is that it's a great idea," said Montgomery County Council President Michael L. Gudis. Gudis added that he had not seen details of the plan, and might disagree with some specifics.
Fairfax County "would certainly look at something like that," said Fairfax County Supervisor Thomas M. Davis, who said the county supports efforts to improve police coordination and stiffen sentencing in the District. "But WMATA is about the worst model anyone could pick. It's such a bureaucracy."
At least one local official was skeptical. Prince George's County Council member Sue V. Mills said: "This sounds like taxpayers are just going to get hit again. I'm not a big supporter of WMATA."
During congressional hearings in April, area law enforcement officials said there is a serious disparity in sentencing between the District and the Maryland and Virginia suburbs.
The discrepancy is widely known among drug dealers and lighter sentences in the District have helped draw dealers to the city, the officials testified.
According to Fauntroy and Parris, a drug authority for the region could draw up a uniform sentencing code or guidelines on sentencing to help resolve the differences. Fauntroy also said that a centralized drug chemical laboratory for analysis of drugs confiscated in arrests is needed. But Mills said she would object to such a regional lab. "I sure don't want to share our lab with D.C.," she said.