THE WASHINGTON AREA'S war on drugs would be helped substantially by greater cooperation among the narcotics officers in our area police departments. D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy and Rep. Stan Parris (R-Va.) have announced plans to seek congressional approval to create a regional group to help local police work together against drugs. There is much to be done.
Such cooperation already exists to a certain extent. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration works with area police departments in a PCP task force. The Fairfax and Arlington county police departments are, with Alexandria authorities, also involved in a Northern Virginia task force on drugs that includes the Virginia State police and authorities from more distant Virginia localities. The value of cooperation in the sharing of information and other matters was shown laste week when Howard County undercover narcotics officers made several large purchases of PCP. With the cooperation of Prince George's police and the DEA, several local arrests were made involving a nationwide PCP distribution ring.
But questions are raised by the idea of creating a regional body to combat drug trafficking. What exactly would it or should it do? How will it address the problem that arises when neighboring police departments argue over whether it is the city's drug crime that affects the suburbs, or vice versa? There has already been some griping over a statement by Mr. Fauntroy that the suburbs are becoming the place where the PCP is being manufactured and where the heroin and cocaine are cut. Suburban police say that is wrong and that the drug criminals from the city are the problem. If the proposed regional authority does anything to still such arguments, it would be beneficial.
The narcotics officers of our local jurisdictions also have some ideas that the proposed body might focus on. In Northern Virginia, police officials say they want more federal involvement to combat drug trafficking. Specifically, they want a continuing presence of FBI agents and/or DEA agents in the Virginia suburbs. In suburban Maryland, police want legislation passed that would enable them to use the drug money they confiscate in raids to finance investigations. Montgomery County police seized $130,000 in drug raids last year, which could have been used to buy surveillance equipment and unmarked cars. Suburban police also want to see tougher sentencing in the District.
Some of this cooperation could be accomplished without legislation, but a congressionally approved body might develop uniform sentences and perhaps add needed funds to aid local police departments. A regional group that would focus on these areas is a good idea.