A drug user or seller stands a better chance of being arrested in the District than anywhere else in the country, according to a recently released study by the city's Office of Criminal Justice Plans and Analysis.
The city outranked all other U.S. cities and states in per capita drug arrests in 1985, said Steve Rickman, director of statistical analysis. The partial figures available for 1986 show the District jumping from an already high rate of 14.8 arrests to 21.4 arrests per 1,000 residents.
The arrest figures reflect a continuing epidemic of drug use in the city with cocaine edging out heroin for the first time as the most popular illegal drug used by adults, according to the study. Rickman attributes the city's high number of drug arrests to a series of drug operations that started in 1985 and culminated in the massive Operation Clean Sweep of 1986.
Assistant Police Chief Isaac Fulwood, the architect of the Clean Sweep program, said he takes no particular pride in the city's high arrest rate.
"It shows that we are very proficient at arresting drug dealers and users," he said. "But those arrest figures are a sad commentary on the situation in the District. I would take more pride in less arrests if that meant the problem had been abated."
Fulwood also said the figures prove to him that it will take more than police work to solve the city's drug problem. "We have to do a heck of a lot more in terms of education and treatment," he said.
The District's 1985 arrest rate of 14.8 per 1,000 residents outpaced Baltimore with a rate of 12.6 and Miami with 8.1 arrests. The study compared the District with nine cities of comparable population and demographics as well as with the 50 states. The material was taken from unpublished data of the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports of 1985.
Dennis Hill, spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department, said his department had created several community involvement programs that accounted for the city's high number of drug-related arrests.
In Miami, which ranked third for the number of drugs arrests per capita according to the study, police spokeswoman Cori Zywotow said her department used sting and undercover operations to combat drug trafficking.
The District report also provides profiles of drug sellers and users. According to the report, women who are arrested on drug charges are more likely to be involved in cocaine than heroin or PCP, and black men make up the majority of arrests for the three drugs. The District is about 70 percent black.
Among juveniles who had been arrested for a variety of crimes and who were subsequently tested for drug use, the majority of the users were black males who used PCP more than other drugs.
From statistical information taken from arrest reports, Rickman also found that of those people arrested who tested positive for heroin, the typical user was most often an unmarried black man, about 32 years old, who had not completed high school. He is most often charged with a drug offense and least likely to be charged with a violent crime.
The cocaine user who had been arrested also was most often a single black man who had not graduated from high school. He tended, however, to be younger, with an average age of 28, and was most often charged with a drug offense. He was more likely to be charged with a violent crime, such as homicide or rape, than the heroin user.
PCP, usually associated with teen-agers, is showing up as the drug more popular with slightly older people. Rickman found that the typical PCP user who was arrested last year was 28 years old, but the majority of arrests fell in the 18-to-25 age group. The typical PCP user was a black man with 11 years of schooling who was more often involved in robberies and burglaries than the heroin or cocaine user.