Utah can substantially eradicate drug abuse by the turn of the century, predicts U.S. Attorney Brent D. Ward - provided a set of 20 recommendations by a panel of law enforcement officers is carried out.
The recommendations of the Utah Strategic Planning Committee for Law Enforcement were listed by Ward at a press conference Wednesday. The group is pushing for stepped-up funding for drug and alcohol abuse enforcement and education, particularly aimed at protecting youth.Federal allocations to prosecute drug offenses have increased 400 percent since 1981, but state funding has barely kept up with inflation, Ward said. The chief federal prosecutor is the head of the group's Subcommittee on Drugs, Alcohol and Youth.
"Drug abuse is wrong," he said. "Drug abuse is immoral. It is immoral because it enslaves the mind and destroys the soul."
The 20 recommendations are to:
-Establish a permanent statewide drug prosecution unit. The federal government pays for such a unit, but someday the grant may run out. Ward wants to see Utah develop its own such unit, probably as part of the attorney general's office.
-Increase state and local funding of drug law enforcement. It has "fallen way back, especially in the state of Utah," he said.
-Ban "precursor" chemicals - used to brew up drugs, particularly methamphetamines - through state law. Ward said outlaw chemists from other states purchase the materials here so they can make "speed" in other states.
-Suspend the driving licenses of young drug abusers.
-Amend the state's Drug Tax Stamp Act so that revenues go directly to drug fighters, not into the general fund.
-Require use permits for rock concerts on public land. Permit fees could be used for enforcement.
-Adopt a similar ordinance for beer keg sales, with purchasers forced to say where their gatherings will be held so that officers can be sure underage youths aren't drinking.
-Have all enforcement agencies move toward a "zero tolerance" program in which drug users would be targets of enforcement, along with pushers.
-Step up training so that officers know how to seize assets of drug offenders.
-Prompt counties to be more aggressive about suspending licenses of businesses that repeatedly sell beer to minors. Ward said it's not necessary to prove in court that the business is guilty.
-Encourage all levels of law enforcement to participate in drug education programs in schools.
-Appoint a drug education committee to coordinate school programs about the problem.
-Survey recovering adolescents who were drug and alcohol abusers to learn how to improve enforcement and guidance.
-Require that health care insurance help with the cost of adolescents' participation in drug and alcohol recovery programs.
-Develop drug education programs aimed at helping parents understand the drug problem.
-Require hospitals to report statistics on drug and alcohol abuse patients. Ward said his office has unsuccessfully tried to get such information from Utah hospitals.
-Pass a state law to prosecute the laundering of drug money. This would supplement existing federal legislation.
-Make state and local prosecutors aware of the Federal Armed Career Criminal Act, which imposes a mandatory 15-year prison term for career criminals who possess a firearm.
--nform agencies of the state's new School Yard Laws, which double the penalties for drug sales that occur within 1,000 yards of schools.
-Allow the use of subpoenas issued by administrative agencies in drug investigations.