By Vandana Sinha
WASHINGTON – Drug trafficking arrests and seizures in the Washington-Baltimore corridor from a federal anti-drug program rose sharply last year, police officials said Wednesday.
More than $11 million funded 21 crime-fighting proposals last fiscal year, often paying officers overtime or higher salaries to patrol drug-infested streets in the region’s 13 jurisdictions declared high-risk areas.
As a result, police tore down 205 drug dealing, money laundering and firearms operations, about 35 percent more than 1995, according to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program.
Police also recovered $11.3 million in assets and cash — a 53 percent increase — while the number of area drug crime investigations funded by the program doubled and drug-related arrests rose 13 percent.
“The bottom line is that (the federal program) is proving to be a hugely successful effort in fighting crime,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Prince George’s, who helped secure the federal funding.
The cities of Washington, Baltimore and Alexandria and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Charles, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties make up the 13 jurisdictions that receive the earmarked funds.
“It allows us to utilize our manpower more effectively. It puts more men on the street by giving them overtime capacity,” said Lt. Rick McCormick, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County Police.
The program’s money, information, access to federal agencies and manpower was invaluable to several crime prevention programs that carved down Prince George’s normally high crime rate, he said.
Hoyer called the Washington-Baltimore effort a “model” for the country’s 14 other declared high-risk areas because of its unique dual focus on transforming hardened drug addicts into law- abiding taxpayers.
The program’s 9-month intensive treatment, designed by Faye Taxman, a University of Maryland criminology and criminal justice associate research professor, is the first of its kind and includes regular drug testing, supervision, counseling and a sanction system that keeps criminal offenders in line and involved.
Giving care and supervision at three times the length of most programs reduced repeat criminal activity in Montgomery County by 76 percent in the past two years, said Peter Luongo, clinical director of Maryland’s Adult Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
Offenders who breach their treatment “contracts” are easily tracked by sophisticated software linking Montgomery County clinics to parole and probation officers who, under the federal program, can bypass a judge to authorize immediate punishments, Luongo said.
Recidivism rates for those in the program plummeted to 12 percent last fiscal year.
In addition, half the number of offenders, 10 percent, dropped out of the treatment program last year compared to the year before.
“What this data is showing is that we are changing behavior,” said Thomas Williams, vice chairman of the program. “Have others made that kind of impact? I doubt it.”
“Many projects get put together on paper,” said Charles County Sheriff Frederick Davis. “This one got actual results.”