Clinton Targets Drug-Crime Link

President Clinton announced a government release of $32 million in grants Saturday to help officials nationwide tackle drug problems in their areas.

"To stop the revolving door of crime and narcotics, we must make offenders stop abusing drugs," Mr. Clinton said in his weekly radio address from the Oval Office.

Citing a government study, the president said that testing of criminal defendants in 23 of the nation's biggest cities shows a strong connection between drugs and crime. But since drugs of choice vary widely by region, local officials require unique methods of battling drug offenders.

"If we want to continue to make communities safer we simply must get more crime-committing addicts to kick the habit," Mr. Clinton said.

Mr. Clinton announced $27 million in federal grants to create special drug courts in 150 new jurisdictions. There are now more than 270 drug courts around the country, combining supervision with sanctions, testing and drug treatment to coerce criminals to end drug habits.

In some cities, drug-court participants have recidivism -- or repeat offender -- rates as low as 4 percent, President Clinton said.

An additional $5 million in federal money was released to six cities with documented problems of methamphetamine abuse. Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Minneapolis and Little Rock, Ark., are getting grants to tailor enforcement and prevention efforts to the peculiarities of methamphetamine use.

The drug, known by the nicknames meth, crank and speed, has a potent effect on the central nervous system and often creates delusions, paranoia and aggressive behavior.

"There is no single national drug problem. We have lots of very different local drug problems," said Jeremy Travis, director of the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the Justice Department.

The grants come as the institute's Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program, or ADAM, showed a rebound in methamphetamine use exclusively in Western and Southwestern cities.

Where use among arrestees in these cities fell between 1994 and 1996, urinalysis results in 1997 for methamphetamine use were back up - to nearly 40 percent of adults arrested in San Diego; 18 percent in San Jose, Calif.; 16 percent in Phoenix and Portland, Ore.; and 10 percent in Omaha, Neb.

Users of the aggression-inducing stimulant were primarily white men and women. By contrast, crack cocaine was on the decline in Manhattan, with 21 percent of arrestees testing positive last year compared to 77 percent in 1988.

Travis suggested that the concentration of the methamphetamine problem in the West and Southwest comes from the fact that "much of the production of methamphetamine is connected to activities south of the border in Mexico."

By contrast, the ADAM survey found cocaine is not as popular with young defendants as it was in earlier years. In Detroit and Washington, for exampe, just 5 percent of those aged 15-20 tested positive for cocaine use, compared with nearly 50 percent of those 36 and over. In the late 1980s cocaine use among those arrested for crimes reached 80 percent and higher.

The 1997 survey also found marijuana use leveling off among male criminals. Fifteen of the 23 survey sites reported drops in marijuana use by the younger group, including substantial drops of between five and nine percentage points in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Omaha, Phoenix and Washington. Some cities, however, reported slight increases in pot smoking by female arrestees.

Heroin is finding a younger client base in New Orleans, Philadelphia and St. Louis, the only three sites where heroin abuse was more likely among the 15-20 age group than the older one.

The ADAM program exists in 35 cities - 23 that reported in 1997 and 12 new ones - and is due to expand by 2000 to a total of 75 or 80. In 1997, ADAM collected data, through drug tests and interviews, from nearly 32,000 men and women booked on suspicion of crimes.