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Authorities Puzzled By Rising Cocaine Seizures

February 10, 1985

MIAMI (AP) _ Drug-enforcement authorities say a record amount of cocaine - 4,364 pounds - was confiscated across Florida in a recent two-week period, but they’re not really certain what the seizures mean.

″You can ask yourself, does this mean there’s more coming in or does this mean we’re getting better at catching them?″ asked Jim Dingfelder, a spokesman for the South Florida Task Force on Drugs. ″I’d love to say we’re getting better, but I couldn’t really tell you what’s causing it.″

″It’s really to early to say it’s a trend,″ agreed Navy Rear Adm. Rick Cueroni, Miami coordinator of the task force, in a recent interview.

But he added, ″Intelligence is getting better, and that’s really all I can say on that one.″

The 4,364 pounds of cocaine seized over a 15-day period starting Jan. 19 was more than was confiscated in Florida in the first three months of 1984, a record-setting year, and more than what was seized by federal agents in the United States in all of 1981, authorities said.

″The law enforcement agencies down here have done in 32 days what was done in 90 days last year,″ Dingfelder said. ″I’d be a fool to say that wasn’t significant. We’ve got our intelligence people looking at it.″

The cocaine flurries began when 500 pounds of the illegal drug was captured on the open seas by the Metro-Dade Marine Patrol. Agents called the bust ″the largest ... in marine patrol history″

Over the next several days, authorities say, more record seizures took place, including ″the largest haul in Palm Beach County history,″ made Jan. 24 after an elderly woman walking on a beach in Manalapan stumbled onto 1,076 pounds of cocaine in blue and green duffel bags.

Federal drug agents say intelligence has improved with the addition of the Central Intelligence Agency and the executive board of the National Narcotics Border Interdiction System, an interagency task force created in 1983 to coordinate federal law enforcement and military efforts to choke off the flow of drugs into the United States.

Last month, Navy Adm. Dan Murphy, chief of staff for Vice President George Bush, said record seizures in South Florida have made smuggling more costly and dangerous than ever before.

But Murphy added that the seizures have not really made a dent in the cocaine trade. Record production in Peru, Bolivia and Colombia has created a glut on the international market, he said.

The seizures are something of a mixed blessing for police, serving as a reminder that record amounts of cocaine continue to pour into the country despite more than $1 billion reportedly spent to stop the flow.

″I get a big smile on my face when they call me to tell me that 1,076 pounds have been discovered, because that’s what we’re here for,″ Cueroni said, referring to the Manalapan bust. ″On the other hand, when I see those large amounts it’s frustrating. There certainly is an abundance of drugs.″

Lt. Tom Thompson of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Organized Crime Bureau speculates that ″the large amounts being seized are probably because of supply and demand.″

″They’re bringing in more because of the demand for it. The seizures are being made because we’ve stepped up our efforts. But we’re just be kidding ourselves to think we can stop it all. There aren’t enough police officers.″