ACCOMAC, VA. -- "Crack," the highly addictive cocaine derivative known mainly as the latest inner-city drug scourge, has arrived in force here on the Eastern Shore and in other rural areas of Maryland and Virginia, according to drug officials and law enforcement agents.

"When the crack epidemic broke in New York, we braced for it to come to Washington and Baltimore. But here it has hit in the rural areas," said Bob O'Leary, special agent and spokesman for the Washington field division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, with jurisdiction over the District, Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia.

"It is ironic that the drug of Morningside Drive {in Manhattan} is in the soybean fields here," he said.

Crack has become a particularly difficult problem on the Eastern Shore, and near Hagerstown, Md., and around Martinsburg, W.Va., according to O'Leary.

The crack problem in those areas, considering the low population, is proportionately "much bigger than {in} D.C.," he said.

In Accomack County, a rural strip of Virginia's Eastern Shore, Commonwealth's Attorney Gary R. Agar said about half of all his recent cases involved crack. They included robberies of an 80-year-old man, a convenience store and a post office.

"I see crack causing a lot of problems," he said.

Michael Murphy, Virginia's director of substance abuse for the Eastern Shore, said that in the last two weeks alone, his office has hospitalized 10 or 12 people for crack addiction, a large number for a two-county area with a population of slightly more than 46,000.

DEA and other law enforcement officials have linked the influx of crack to the large number of agricultural workers who migrate to rural areas every summer to work in the fields and orchards.

Some of these migrants have drug connections in Florida, where they spent the winter, officials said; a few others bought crack in New York and brought it south.

Crack comes in small vials, is relatively inexpensive and produces a short but intense feeling of euphoria.

A vial can be purchased in Florida or New York for about $15 and be sold on the Eastern Shore for about $30, law enforcement officials said.

Authorities said there have been cases of migrant workers who started to sell drugs and stopped working in the fields.

Sometimes they return to sell to other field hands and to local residents because that is where their connections are, authorities said.

Gregory Schell, managing attorney of the migrant farm worker division of the Legal Aid Bureau in Salisbury, Md., said that although migrant labor camps "seem to be a source" of crack on the Eastern Shore, there are other sources and that it is primarily local residents who are buying the drug.

"It's rare to see migrants on drugs," he said.

"Migrant labor camps are faceless places where people don't know last names," so they attract all kinds of people "who need to get lost," he added.

Murphy, the state substance abuse official, said crack became an issue for his office a year ago. After previously receiving only one or two calls related to the drug, he said, calls "started to pour in" last August and continued for six to eight weeks, then dropped off.

The calls resumed two or three weeks ago, the beginning of what his office has dubbed "crack-up time" on the Eastern Shore, Murphy said.

The office now fields three or four calls a day from crack addicts or their friends and family seeking help, he said, and most of the calls come from year-round residents.

Some local law enforcement officials in the rural areas said they are hampered by inadequate resources to deal with this type of drug problem, but several major arrests have been made of people charged with crack distribution and possession:Last year, police in Winchester, Va., conducted a two-month undercover investigation that resulted in the indictments of 62 people in what authorities said was the largest network of crack dealers uncovered in the state. Officials said crack was introduced in the area by migrant workers in the apple orchards. A man en route from Florida to the Eastern Shore and connected with one of the migrant camps there was arrested on July 8 in Hampton, Va., and charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, according to the Virginia State Police office in Chesapeake. The man, who has not yet been tried, was carrying 12 ounces of crack worth about $50,000 on the street, said state police investigator Larry Floyd. In October, 46 people were indicted in West Virginia on charges of participation in a cocaine and crack trafficking ring involving Martinsburg, Western Maryland and parts of Virginia and Pennsylvania, according to the DEA.

"In the last couple of years, we have seen a lot of it {crack} on the streets" in the Hagerstown area, said Tom DiGirolamo, state's attorney for the Washington County Narcotics Task Force.

He said people arrested near Hagerstown last year originally had gone to the area as fruit pickers.

By contrast, crack has been slower in coming to the District than drug enforcement officials originally feared after it emerged in New York.

District police reported that arrests and seizures of crack are starting to rise noticeably, but that PCP remains the most prevalent street drug in the District.

Law enforcement officials in the rural areas said PCP has not become the major drug problem for them that it is in the cities.