Americans can't sit back and let somebody else fight the war on drugs everyone must be involved in the battle.
That was the message of "Recapturing our Neighborhoods," a national teleconference on drug abuse held Thursday evening and sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
About 20 local residents came to the Lawrence Holidome for the teleconference, which was beamed by satellite to about 150 U.S. cities.
The show, hosted by former "Good Morning America" host David Hartman, featured four panelists who gave examples of anti-drug programs. After a brief panel discussion, panelists fielded questions by telephone from the national viewing audience.
IT WAS ALSO an evening for statistics. The following is a sampling of the facts and figures cited by Hartman and other narrators during the teleconference:
Every day, 5,000 Americans try cocaine for the first time.
About 2,000 people are arrested every day in the U.S. for drug-related crimes.
Alcohol and drugs are involved in 50 percent of all fatal accidents; 35 percent of all rapes; 65 percent of all murders and 60 percent of all child-abuse incidents.
In 1940, the top three problems among American students (other than grades) were talking, chewing gum and making excessive noise. Today, drugs and alcohol are the top two problems, followed by pregnancy.
PANELISTS said that no single group can solve these problems.
"First of all, we think the war on drugs is winnable," said Jerry Oliver, assistant chief of police in Phoenix, Ariz. "But it cannot be won if it's left to law enforcement."
Oliver said that involving the community is one of the goals of the Phoenix's "Trail 'Em, Nail 'Em and Jail 'Em" program, in which officers target users instead of suppliers. Anyone who is arrested in possession of any type of illegal substance is booked into jail on felony charges.
Oliver said the program is making a strong anti-drug statement.
"Our message is that each time they smoke a joint, each time they do a line of cocaine in their country club, they're pulling the trigger somewhere," he said. "Drug use is not a victimless crime."
AN EXAMPLE of community involvement came from Dr. Edward Foote, chairman of a grass-roots organization against drug abuse in Miami known as the Miami Coalition.
Foote said the Miami Coalition has 21 specific goals for cleaning up the town, including eliminating or rehabilitating every crack house in the city.
All panelists selected for the discussion agreed that too much of the money in President Bush's proposed drug policy is being steered toward law enforcement.
"If I were choosing, I would have to appropriate more money to other areas," Foote said. "In the short-term, it's tempting to spend it on intervention. But I don't see that as a long-term solution."