President Reagan, after an elaborately staged inspection of drugs, cash and guns seized in the administration's war on crime in South Florida, concluded today that the effort was "a clear and unqualified success." He vowed to expand the anti-crime offensive nationwide "to break the power of the mob in America."
Aboard the Coast Guard cutter Dauntless, where the crew is credited with making 114 arrests, capturing 371,382 pounds of marijuana and seizing 20 vessels, Reagan said the South Florida task force he established last January has so far confiscated more than $3 billion in illegal drugs.
"Without your efforts, these drugs would have been on the marketplace providing profits for organized crime, fueling the drug culture that has done so much damage to so many lives in our society," Reagan told Coast Guard officials.
Speaking later against the backdrop of drug-chasing aircraft parked in a hangar at Homestead Air Force Base, Reagan claimed that drug-related arrests have increased by 27 percent and drug seizures by 50 percent since the task force, headed by Vice President Bush, was put into operation.
The president examined some of the seized contraband displayed in the hangar.
He was shown 7.5 tons of marijuana, wrapped in bales, with an estimated wholesale value of $4.5 million.
He was led past packets of pure cocaine valued at $5.9 million wholesale, and $4 million in stolen currency -- $20 bills wrapped in bundles.
Handguns and rifles seized in drug arrests were displayed nearby.
The displays and the aircraft were intended to highlight the administration's commitment to combatting what Reagan called "the drug menace" in a speech to Miami Citizens Against Crime, a group active in the drug battle.
"As I have said before, our goal is cracking down not only on the drug trade, but on all organized criminal syndicates that have been permitted to exist in America for far too long," Reagan told the group.
The anti-crime effort was unveiled by Reagan in a Justice Department speech Oct. 14. He announced then the formation of 12 new task forces and the addition of 1,000 investigators and 200 prosecutors. Reagan was joined here today by Attorney General William French Smith, just returned from a global tour focusing on international drug trafficking.
The new task forces are expected to be in full operation by next summer or fall, said Edwin Meese III, the White House counselor. He added that Reagan would ask Congress for between $75 million and $100 million to finance the program for the remainder of fiscal year 1983. Administration officials had planned previously to trim an equal amount of money from other programs, but they have not yet decided which ones.
Meese said Reagan will seek between $160 million and $200 million for the stepped-up crime initiative in the fiscal 1984 budget he sends to Congress in January. He said there was "enthusiastic support" in Congress for funding the new task forces. "I can't imagine that they won't support it," he added.
In addition to the task forces, Reagan said, he will soon appoint a presidential commission to hold regional hearings on organized crime across the nation.
"Our goal is to break the power of the mob in America and nothing short of it," he said. "We mean to end their profits, imprison their members, and cripple their organizations." He also noted a new Cabinet-level committee on organized crime.
Reagan said he will "open a new legislative offensive" to win passage of his proposals for reform of criminal statutes dealing with bail, sentencing, criminal forfeiture, the exclusionary rule and labor racketeering.
Departing from his prepared text, Reagan offered what he said was a classic example of "how foolish we can be in our adherence to technicalities" in applying the exclusionary rule, which allows some evidence to be thrown out of court if it is obtained illegally.
The president said that in California a few years ago, two narcotics agents went to a home with a search warrant for a man and woman suspected of engaging in drug trade.
"They searched this house, found nothing.
"And as they were leaving, on a hunch, one of them turned back to the baby in the crib and looked in his diapers and there was the heroin -- the evidence was thrown out of court because the baby hadn't given its permission to be searched.
"And the couple went free.