TWENTY-FIVE percent of all the homicides in Dade County, Fla., last year were committed with machine guns. These are not the weapons of the corner stickup man or your run-of-the-mill wife abuser. They are the signature of the gangland killing, the hallmark of a turf fight among drug traffickers, the sure sign that big money and the mob are involved.
Conditions had become so bad in southern Florida early this year that the federal government set up a law enforcement task force to attack the syndicates in that area. Since March, the task force has made more than 600 arrests. Assets worth $8 million have been seized, including 45 vessels. Thousands of pounds of drugs and a million pounds of marijuana have been confiscated.
With the single exception of the prosecutor in Utah, every one of the 94 U.S. attorneys has identified drugs as the main crime problem in his area. Big money is involved here. The kingpins make more profits than any American corporation, and, of course, they pay no taxes. The potential for gain is so great that high-risk and expensive smuggling operations can be undertaken and enormous bribes paid.
The president has now proposed a broad assault on this problem. Part of it will be modeled on the South Florida Task Force. Teams of law enforcement officials including prosecutors, FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration agents, and tax, customs and immigration experts will be established in each of 12 regions. Up to 1,200 new positions will be created for these task forces, and facilities will be built to house 1,260 new inmates at existing federal prisons.
Concerted efforts to deal with the epidemic of organized crime and drug trafficking seem to come in cycles. Individual cases may take years to prepare and are expensive to try. A sustained effort is needed. The administration promises that this time the federal government is ready to commit resources on a long-term basis. While the plan does not specifically address the international aspects of the drug problem, it does contain a comprehensive list of proposals on the domestic side. These will cost $200 million a year when put into full effect. Even in these times of tight budgets, that would be money well spent.