Speech

Karen P. Tandy
Administrator
Drug Enforcement Administration
New England Governors' Summit
Boston, Massachusetts
October 8, 2003

Director Walters, Governors, and distinguished guests. Thank you for permitting me to speak with you today. I am grateful for the support you have given DEA and our ongoing efforts to combat heroin, one of the world's most dangerous drugs.

Heroin is a more pressing problem in the Northeast than anywhere else in the country. Here in New England, we know that heroin has re-emerged with a vengeance-stronger, cheaper, and more seductive than ever before. Four factors tell us why:

First, heroin is cheap in the New England states, selling for as low as $4 a bag. That's cheaper than it was in the 1960's. I can't think of many other products that are less expensive now than they were 40 years ago.

Second, heroin purity levels in New England have been known to exceed the national average of 57 percent. Thus, we have seen purities at 90 percent in places like Bridgeport, New Bedford, and Portland. With high purities, users don't need to inject it-they can inhale and smoke it-which has allowed heroin to shake its back-alley stigma. That has helped recruit users of a kind, and at an age, that we haven't seen before, some as young as 14.

Third, heroin is readily available in New England. Three weeks ago, police seized 300 packets of heroin from two men attempting to sell it less than 1,500 feet from a Willimantic, Connecticut, elementary school. Heroin is available-and in quantity-to some of our youngest, most impressionable, and most vulnerable citizens.

Fourth, heroin trafficking is big business, with Colombian traffickers having created what is in effect a franchise marketing system here. They are as efficient and shrewd as the canniest businessmen. These dealers give free heroin samples to cocaine users to lure in new customers. They even mark the heroin packages with logos, a new twist in "corporate brand names."

Most of the heroin coming into your states originates in South America. Colombian and Dominican organizations control most of the wholesale-level distribution of South American heroin here. New York City acts as the principal transshipment point for heroin before it is brought up the New England pipeline.

DEA is responding: Under the talented leadership of Boston Special Agent in Charge Mark Trouville, DEA is targeting heroin trafficking organizations from top to bottom. Working with our dedicated partners, we have created DEA-led HIDTA groups in each of your states to dismantle heroin distribution networks. This Administration recently allocated $1.12 million to these groups to investigate priority drug targets.

We are re-energizing our financial investigations as well. Each year, $65 billion changes hands in this country for illegal drugs. As I speak, DEA is undertaking more modern and more global approaches to eliminate those illicit gains and strike deep at the heart of drug cartels.

Striking deep often starts locally. When an 18-year old high school hockey player died of a heroin overdose in Woburn, Massachusetts, DEA arrested the Maine supplier. We then took down his supplier-a heroin organization in Lawrence, Massachusetts, that was selling 250 grams of heroin a week at purity levels as high as 97 percent. We ultimately identified that group's New York source and arrested 44 individuals. One faces a 20-years-to-life sentence for a drug sale that resulted in death.

Our commitment to dismantling the heroin trade knows no borders. We reached into Colombia to get to the leaders of a Boston heroin ring that DEA dismantled earlier this year. Right now, three Colombian drug lords await extradition to Massachusetts for trafficking wholesale quantities of the drug in the Boston area.

That kind of operation is part of DEA's new global strategy to take apart worldwide heroin trafficking organizations. Working in particular with the Colombian National Police, we've put an increased focus on combating the heroin threat from our south. In just the last two years, we've seized three metric tons of heroin from Central and South America and Mexico. Seizures from Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela have doubled or more than doubled, and from Panama, they have tripled. That's heroin that could have been bound for your neighborhoods but will never make it there now.

These are important accomplishments. However, DEA knows that we cannot arrest our way out of the heroin problem. For drug enforcement to be effective, the demand must be attacked with equal determination. Consistent anti-drug messages enable young people to make the right choices. Those messages must come from all of us: parents, teachers, and community leaders.

Enforcement of course plays a central role as well: through the criminal justice system, drug users can enter supervised drug treatment. People who enter treatment under legal sanction are more likely to complete treatment programs and are thus more likely to get well. And for those who complete a good treatment program, there is a 75 percent chance they will still be drug-free in five years.

It will take all of us-in prevention, in treatment, and in enforcement-to end heroin's trail of destruction. On behalf of DEA, I want to offer you our help; in return, I will be asking help from you. I'm confident that, together, we can prevent future addictions, heal current users, and bring a lasting safe and drug-free future to New England families. ##

(*Note: Administrator Tandy frequently speaks from notes and may depart from the speech as prepared. However, she stands behind the speech as presented in written format.)

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