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Kudos for the cocaine busters

All credit to the American law enforcement agencies that have disrupted a major cocaine ring operating throughout the United states with links to Colombian drug dealers. The police work, involcing federal, state, and local officials, has led agents not only all over New York City but as far away as Atlanta, Miami, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Tucson. The case, as described in the New York Times, involves private airplaines, commercial banks that allegedly launder drug monies, searches for a missing red Chevrolet car throughout the borough of Queens, and even an uncaught "Mr. Big" hidden behind a shadowy assortment of aliases.

The three-year inquiry points up again the grim fact that a vicious, debilitating drug trade is operating within the US. The public needs to be aroused and law enforcement to be stepped up. Despite the expenditure of millions of dollars in the past decade, the drug trade in some ways grows worse. Cocaine, for example, has moved into the forefront of illicit drugs, with as much as 31 tons brought into the US yearly, at a value of over $20 billion. The drug is steeped in violence, from the international dealers, to pushers, to smalltime users, who often finance their habits through street crimes and thefts.

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There are some encouraging developments. FBI director William Webster is urging that the FBI take on a bigger role in the battle against drug trafficking. The Reagan administration's fight against street crime is expected to address one end of the problem, the user. But more efforts are needed, such as going after the "legitimate" businessmen and bankers who launder drug monies. The State Department needs to find ways to supervise passports more closely; an estimated 30,000 passports issued annually are believed fraudulent and often drug-related.

Meanwhile, the police work continues. Just this month deliveries of 485 pounds and 528 pounds of cocaine, valued at hundreds of millions of dollars, have been foiled. The American people should applaud all the efforts to end drug smuggling and -- better still -- show their own moral concern by getting after the attitudes that foster use o f narcotics in the first place.

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