Diplomats from 22 nations, some of which produce vast amounts of narcotics, toured Harlem's drug world today.
Rep. Lester L. Wolff (D.-N.Y.), who has been taken on many a tour in many a foreign country, turned tour leader today for a caravan of two police cars and two buses that lumbered through Harlem, provoking stares, laughter and occasional obscene gestures from men idling on the streets.
"Lenox Avenue has very heavy drug traffic around here," Sgt. Alvin Ingram of the New York Police Street Enforcement Unit told the tour as it crawled past 116th Street.
As the buses moved along Lenox, Diplomats gawked at an avenue where loitering and Cadillacs parked along the trash-strewn curb go together.
The purpose of the tour was to show the diplomats the finish line on the heroin and cocaine trails that begin in several of their countries.
For most, it was also their first look at Harlem, and the police protection laid on for the occasion made it possible to drive without incident along 8th Avenue from 147th to 153rd Streets, a strip which had as many as a dozen shootings some days last summer in a war between drug dealers and thieves who prey on them.
Khamthong Boulom, counselor at the Lao U.N. mission, said he joined the trip because his country is interested in combatting narcotics problems. Boulom said his government is rehabilitating the opium addicts inherited from the previous American-supported government and is persuading its opium farmers to switch to other crops.
Opium has flowed through Laos from the famous Golden Triangle for years and the Lao Communists' predecessors never came close to bring it under control.
Other nations represented on the tour included Turkey, whose leaders say its opium no longer enters illegal channels; Mexico, which is still a major source of drugs consumed in Harlem, and the Netherlands, where addiction problems are becoming increasingly serious.
Wolf, who heads the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control and is a U.S. representative to the current U.N. General Assembly, began the tour by saying congressmen and diplomats are criticized for having too much fun on tours.
"This is not going to be one of the fun trips," he said.
The tour groups stopped at two rehabilitation centers - the pregnant mother facility at New York Medical College Hospital and the Addicts Rehabilitation Center.
Dr. Richard Brotman said his program begins treating pregnant heroin addicts as early as possible in their pregnancies, and as a result only about 10 per cent of the babies born in the program are born addicted. Without treatment about 50 per cent of addicts' babies are addicts, he said.
In 30 months of operation, 235 families have been treated, Brotman said. New York has an estiated 70,000 addicts.
The addict-run Addicts Rehabilitation Center helped 3,233 addicts in 1975-76, of which 1,764 kicked drugs, its director said.