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Feds to Up Anti-Drug Local Efforts

December 18, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Drug Enforcement Administration will step up prevention and treatment programs by adding more agents to work with local police and community groups to fight drug abuse.

The agency will more than double the number of full-time special agents to set up long-term anti-drug programs with police, schools, churches and other agencies. The DEA currently has 22 ``demand reduction″ agents around the country.

``Agents are tired of dismantling an organization and a year later come back and see that they’ve moved in again or another organization has,″ said DEA chief Asa Hutchinson.

The agency will spend nearly $5 million over the next two years to add agents in the field.

Hutchinson stressed that pushing treatment and prevention programs would not diminish the DEA’s core law enforcement mission of investigating and arresting drug dealers.

``There should not be any competition between the enforcement side and the demand reduction side,″ said Hutchinson.

The agents also will encourage communities to establish drug courts that allow nonviolent first-time offenders to receive treatment and counseling rather than jail time.

The initiative aims to expand the DEA’s role in treatment and prevention programs and reflects Hutchinson’s desire to emphasize rehabilitation.

The agency usually waits until after a drug bust to send in agents to work with local communities on drug treatment and prevention programs. Under the new program, ``the DEA will combine the enforcement effort with a partnership alongside any existing community coalitions to have a long-lasting impact to reduce demand through drug prevention and treatment programs,″ according to a program description.

That includes working with communities to set up drug testing programs, drug courts, drug treatment programs and police training.

The FBI, now focusing increasingly on terrorism prevention, is considering a reduction in its role in drug investigations and other crimes not related to terrorism.

FBI Director Robert Mueller said last month that the FBI may step back from some investigations but only if he were convinced that other agencies could fill in the gaps.

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On the Net: Drug Enforcement Administration: http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/

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