THE ONE LOOPHOLE in the surprisingly ef fective police push to clean up the drug markets that thrive on some city street corners is to be found at 5th Street and Indiana Avenue NW--in the Superior Court. While the police have made about 500 arrests of heroin dealers and addicts, the courts have brought none of them to trial. Instead, the dealers and addicts have returned to their old hangouts or found new ones. One such man was re-arrested two hours after the courts had released him on an earlier drug charge. This sort of thing negates all that the police have done to try to gain control of the drug carnivals, and it flouts the community outrage that pressured police to do the job. The courts need to expedite their handling of these drug cases to show their own commitment to resolving the street-corner drug problem.
They should assign one or two judges to handle the drug arrests made by the police during the current drive against the dealers and users. They could go through those 500 arrests--which include at least eight persons who have been arrested two times--in a matter of weeks. That would be considerably less time than the six months that most of those arrested for felonies will be allowed to remain on the streets under the regular court routine. The difference in time is all-important. If the addicts and dealers are to be forced off the streets they must not be able to take comfort in knowing that punishment for their acts is six months away. The courts may have to ask for another judge to get the job done or pay a retired one to take a temporary assignment. Whatever is required should be done.
The city's drug treatment programs also need to be adjusted to accommodate the effects of the police pressure. The city's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration is handling more addicts daily and RAP Inc., a private drug treatment center, reports that it is "swamped" and has a waiting list of 200 people. The city government, with RAP and other private agencies, needs to coordinate its efforts so that no addict asking for treatment has to wait.
These repercussions from the drive to clean up 14th and U streets and 7th and T streets as well as other areas are evidence that the police work has had some effect on a very serious problem. But this alone will not solve it. Now other elements of the city government and private groups must do their part. Meanwhile, the police have to persevere to prevent the remaining addicts and dealers from sinking their awful claws into the life of some other street corner.