Sellers of crack-cocaine and other illegal drugs are doing a brisk business on streets across America. Every day, police arrest some of these "slingers," knowing full well that the major dealers are insulated in private fortresses, protected by private armies, and the flow of drugs goes on unabated.
Make no mistake, crack has become a major problem in every city of the United States - from New York, Los Angeles, and Phoenix to mid-sized and suburban communities and rural towns. It is an epidemic that destroys individual lives and whole communities.In meeting this emergency, our front-line troops, the local police, are outnumbered, outfinanced, outcoordinated, and outgunned by drug dealers. City officials urgently need help from Washington. We must concentrate every ounce of our joint efforts on the drug problem, not dissipate them in more requirements, reports, and red tape.
But that is exactly what the "Drug Free Workplace Act" would do to the leaders of our cities and towns. The bill requires cities and states receiving any federal grants to certify that their employees and workplaces are drug-free. If a city's anti-drug program is found deficient in structure, scope or enforcement, all federal grant funds may be reduced or stopped.
City officials agree that workplaces must be drug-free. We are second to none in our desire to rid our streets and neighborhoods of the plague of drugs.
But the proposed federal mandate will create major new administrative, legal and even constitutional problems. Who will decide what constitutes an adequate program of drug testing and counseling, and who will pay for it?
The proposed legislation is a cruel example of "shooting the wounded after the battle." Cities and towns are in the day-in, day-out struggle to balance their drug fighting efforts with other community demands. Local officials also know that the drug problem is far more complicated than arresting the pushers. Drug abuse thrives where there is low education, high unemployment, and little hope.
The sanctions threatened by this proposal penalize exactly the people we are trying to free from a cycle of drugs and despair. It would withhold federal aid first from those places already most beset by crushing local burdens, and those places would end up with even fewer resources to fight the war against drugs.
State and local officials urge our Washington leaders to be at least as vigorous in using the tools under their control to fight drugs as they are in dictating local government activities.
The federal government should get its own house in order. For starters, it can coordinate the multiplicity of agencies involved in drug control.
Drug dealers move huge amounts of cash through our financial institutions. Federal restrictions and investigations on the source of large cash transactions are desperately needed.
Our crime fighting technology is way behind the drug pushers' equipment. A simple item such as a radio without an antenna would allow police cars to move in and out of drug sale areas without being instantly identified.
Our police confronting drug dealers are frequently outgunned. They face weapons, such as the TEC-9, with much greater firepower. Restricting these super weapons will save police lives.
Local officials are crying for federal leadership in the war on drugs. Resources cannot be wasted on confusing new regulations and massive new paperwork requirements.
We can and must make the workplaces of America drug free. Let us concentrate first on getting the scourge of drugs off our streets.