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 The Traffic in Narcotics

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United States Commissioner of Narcotics



United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey Former Chairman, Legislative Commission to Study Narcotics, General Assembly of New Jersey





NARCOTIC ADDICTION IS NOTHING NEW IN THE UNITED STATES. Thirty-five years ago it was two or three times more prevalent on a per capita basis than it was at the outbreak of World War II. Toward the war's end narcotic addiction was still further greatly reduced; and when that war ended, addiction in this country was at the irreducible minimum.


The Federal narcotic laws and the State narcotic laws have been in force for only a long generation. Throughout that period and until just recently there had been a steady, substantial decline in addiction. It coincided with the enforcement of penal narcotic laws. There was a deviation from a straight decline in a rather sharp upsurge after World War 1, but that soon subsided. In the early 1920's, heroin and morphine were available at $25.00 to $50.00 an ounce. A few unscrupulous doctors were writing prescriptions for narcotics in large amounts. Drugs were smuggled into the country in trunk lots. It was common for addicts to have tremendous habits: 5, 10, 20, or even 50 grains of morphine a day! Today, the unscrupulous doctor has almost disappeared. The occasional cheater dares to prescribe a few grains only instead of ounces. Wholesale diversions are nonexistent except for an occasional bona-fide robbery or burglary. Smuggling is in small amounts that can be concealed on the person.

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The addiction of persons in their late teens, loosely referred to as teen-age addiction, is not novel in this country. Heroin was used by this age group in the early 1900's. It was one of the developments which brought about the enactment of the Harrison Narcotic Law in 1914 and later on, other Federal and State laws outlawing the narcotic traffic. The following is cited from a report of a special committee appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury in 1919: "Most of the heroin addicts are comparatively young, a portion of them being boys and girls under the age of twenty. This is also true of cocaine addicts." But after the post-World-War-I outbreak, the tendency was for fewer young people to become addicted. The new addicts were in a slightly older category, and the youthful addict became an exception and a curiosity.

On the basis of World War I experience, the Bureau of Narcotics feared and predicted some rise in addiction after World War II, and these forebodings proved to be well justified. An increase in addiction was noted around 1948, first as a trickle and then as a small stream. By 1952, admissions to Federal narcotic hospitals and other factors showed that the crest of that increase had been passed. However, the situation remains a dangerous one, the correction of which is a challenge to the best efforts of everyone concerned.

It is the considered judgment of officials in the Bureau of Narcotics that this epidemic of narcotic addiction among younger people is primarily an extension of a wide-spread surge of juvenile delinquency. While it can not be completely dismissed or completely described as a big city problem, that, practically speaking, is the situation. Also, it is a problem confined for the most part to those areas where many factors contribute to delinquency and lawlessness among the affected youth.

The new addiction is a contagious manifestation which endangers fringe groups with whom the hoodlum comes in contact.

Not the least consideration in the revival of narcotic addiction in this country was the fact that the field force of the Bureau of Narcotics had been reduced approximately 25 percent from the pre-World-War-II roster. This was a logical development during the World-War-II years when the narcotic traffic subsided to




practically an irreducible minimum. When efforts were made to get the force back to something like reasonable numerical strength, difficulties were encountered because of competition with military preparedness and other high priority programs. The 82nd Congress, however, restored the force of narcotic agents to prewar strength.

Again, in many cities the relatively good situation bad brought about the disbanding of or a great reduction in the specialized local forces needed for narcotic policing. While in some places these men were retained as a nominal narcotic squad they were assigned other duties.


Also, the narcotic traffic had an incentive for revival in an atmosphere where the courts had veered from a course of dealing vigorously and rigorously with these racketeers to a practice where relatively short sentences and general leniency were the rule. This was perhaps a not too surprising development. As the traffic was lessened, some of the cases brought before the courts seemed to be of a less consequential nature. However, this atmosphere was simply an open invitation to professional racketeers. To it attaches some of the responsibility for the revival of the traffic and for the inability of the Bureau of Narcotics to deal summarily with it when it reappeared.

Likewise, the prosecuting arm must take some of the blame, since in many jurisdictions there was great delay and dilatoriness in bringing cases to justice. In many instances the Bureau of Narcotics would arrest a trafficker three or four times before his first case was brought up for trial.

Beginning in 1943, certain United States Supreme Court decisions put brakes on the whole Federal law enforcement machinery in the areas of arrests, searches and seizures, and confessions. These decisions work a special hardship in the investigation of rackets so covert, so elusive and so transitory as narcotic violations. Hope for relief in one direction is indicated by a more recent decision, but the disabilities are still very real.





There has also been a climate of public opinion which has favored the spread of narcotic addiction. Contributing to this was a very unfortunate report released some years ago by the socalled LaGuardia committee on marihuana. The Bureau immediately detected the superficiality and hollowness of its findings and denounced it. However, it gave wide circulation to the idea that this drug is relatively innocuous. Now marihuana is found to be the introductory drug to much of the heroinism in young people in the United States. The LaGuardia report is the favorite reference of the proselytor for narcotic-drugs use.

The general public does strange things which often bring about undesirable situations; then it looks to the schools or the police or somebody else to correct the mistakes. Few will dispute that entertainment-world headliners make a terrific impression on youth. But, consider how the public reacts respecting glamorous entertainment characters who have been involved in the sordid details of a narcotic case. Is there a spontaneous reaction which drives them out of show business as might have been done a generation ago? Not at all. There seems to be some sort of public approval of these degenerate practices. The character is not ostracized. Instead he or she immediately becomes a box-office headliner.


In a recent report the Senate Committee on Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce said "the most effective means of combating the narcotic problem is through effective enforcement facilities." That means enforcement at every possible level and by every possible means. In the policing phases of enforcement there is of course a tremendous Federal responsibility. This crime is certainly characteristically an interstate one. As a matter of fact, it is international. Therefore, the Federal Government has a burden of trying to eliminate sources abroad, of attempting to shut off the introduction of the drug at ports and borders, and of combating the interstate traffic within the country.




There is also a heavy responsibility on the local police because of their general concern with law and order. Most of the States have the Uniform State Narcotic Law. All of them have some sort of narcotic laws. Many communities have special narcotic ordinances. The great interest and wide support given by local police in campaigns to stamp out the narcotic evil has contributed much to the Federal control pattern. Cooperation between Federal narcotic officers and the local police in the enforcement of the narcotic laws has been about as close to perfection as human frailty will permit. Every day from St. Paul to New Orleans, from Los Angeles to New York, narcotic agents are engaged in cooperative ventures with one police agency or another. It is a fine testimonial to the feeling of mutual confidence which exists with other law enforcement officers and prosecutors that few narcotic cases of consequence are developed in the United States without the active participation of the Bureau of Narcotics.

When increases in Bureau law-enforcement personnel were requested, the legislators were insistent on knowing whether or not the local communities had been shouldering their proper share of the burden in narcotic law enforcement. Fortunately, in many localities there had been a quick response by the police departments to the emergency. This included the specialized training in narcotic information of the police departments, the creation or augmentation of specialized narcotic squads, and similar programs. Narcotic enforcement is a unique operation. It cannot be effectively handled by officers who do not have particular training. These officers should not be given other duties. The hours and the difficult working conditions are such that narcotic duties are likely to suffer if the officer can properly divert any of his attention to other work. Because of the interstate and source-of-supply features, there should be the closest liaison with Federal narcotic officers. Every bit of information which might run back to original sources should be exploited.

However, there are many types of cases which can and should be handled independently. Simple possession type cases, the usual forgery cases, those arising from the robbery or burglary or larceny of narcotic drugs where no interstate organized ring




is indicated, all could best be handled on the initiative of local police. In the interest of conserving manpower, it is important that cooperation between various services does not result merely in a doubling up of officers on an operation which could be performed just as well or better singly.

In addition to suppressing the traffic in narcotics, police activity against drug addicts is a very essential part of general police operations. The great majority of addicts are parasitic. This parasitic drug addict is a tremendous burden on the community. He represents a continuing problem to the police through his depredations against society. He is a thief, a burglar, a robber; if a woman, a prostitute or a shoplifter. The person is generally a criminal or on the road to criminality before he becomes addicted. Once addicted be has the greatest reason in the world for continuing his life of crime. Most policemen recognize that one of the best ways to break up waves of pocket-picking, petty thievery and burglary in a community is by making a round-up of the narcotic addicts. Often, a long term of imprisonment for a narcotic addict on narcotic charges will rid the community of a burglar or thief for that period.

Still to be attained in most States is proper control over the addict. It is the young addict who contaminates other youth with his dreadful vice. He should be plucked out of the community and quarantined, forced to undergo a cure. He will not do it voluntarily. People who argue against this on the basis of cost of hospitalization forget that $50.00 a day or more may be the cost of the addict's criminal depredations.

Public concern about the narcotic problem has brought an increase in the force of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. It has enabled some police departments to augment or create specialized squads to deal with the criminal narcotic traffic. It has brought about more prompt and vigorous prosecution in many places. Courts are imposing more severe sentences under the Boggs Act which was passed by Congress and approved by the President on November 2, 1951. Legislation similar to the Boggs Act has been enacted by several of the States as an amendment to their Uniform State Narcotic Law.

During the early part of 1952, there were definite indications




that the increase in teen-age drug addiction had been halted and that a downward trend in drug addiction again existed. This does not mean, however, that there can be any dimunition of efforts against the narcotic traffic.


It is well established that a large proportion of the pickpocket artists, the shoplifters, the professional gamblers and card sharks, the confidence men operating fake horse race or fake stock sale schemes, the "short con" men such as the "short change artist" or the coin matchers, are addicted to the use of narcotic drugs. By the very nature of their criminal activities, they are required to be migratory and could be classed as roving criminals. No community seems to be entirely free of their depredations and activities. Particularly is this true of tourist centers and other places, where large crowds congregate.

A skilled gang of pickpockets can steal and will steal an average of sixty pocketbooks a day, and a good day's work will net them $1,500 or more. The elite among the confidence men, preying on the gullible, may have incomes that reach really impressive figures.

The records of criminals, of the type referred to, usually disclose numerous arrests; but it is interesting to note that in the majority of cases the charges were merely vagrancy or suspicion. This no doubt was due to the very nature of their criminal activities, which makes it difficult to apprehend them in the commission of the crimes in which they specialize, and still more difficult to obtain sufficient evidence to secure a successful prosecution. The criminal is released from custody by the posting of a small cash bond and as a rule fails to appear to answer the charges.


In view of the high percentage of addiction among these criminals, it is suggested that a thorough and systematic search for narcotic drugs be made of their persons, effects, baggage, rooms, and automobiles. The search should be conducted by at




least two officers, not only for completeness but to assure corroboration in case of prosecution. It should be thoroughly systematic from the head to the feet. The suspect should be disrobed and his wearing apparel minutely examined. (The disrobing is important because narcotic drugs have frequently been found attached to intimate and other parts of a prisoner's anatomy.) They also have been found concealed in hat-bands, neckties, seams of clothing, hidden small pockets in coats, vests, trousers, and also in the cuffs of the trousers, in fountain pens and watches, as well as in the heels and inner soles of shoes. These suggestions apply to female as well as to male suspects.

Instances have occurred where pockets of trousers, handkerchiefs, and sheets of paper have been saturated with a concentrated solution of a narcotic, thus assuring a supply in case of arrest and detention. These devices are known in the vernacular as sachets.

The search of rooms and living quarters presents a more difficult problem due to the ease with which narcotic drugs can be concealed. Here a thorough and systematic search should be conducted, starting with some focal point. Narcotics have been found hidden in the bottoms of talcum-powder cans and other cosmetic containers, fixtures, bedsteads, window-sills, chandeliers, door knobs, backs of dresser drawers, secret places in the woodwork, and many other ingeniously devised places of concealment.

Baggage and trunks should be searched for secret compartments.

Narcotics have been found concealed in hub-caps, in back of headlights, in spare tires and tubes, and other secret places in automobiles. Under certain circumstances, vehicles used for the transportation and concealment of narcotic drugs can be seized and forfeited to the United States Government.

Often local officers can be of considerable assistance if, when arresting dealers in narcotics, they will look particularly for indications of the source of supply of the drugs. Most drugs in the illicit traffic must be smuggled into the country originally and, therefore, it follows that dealers and users of drugs inland must be supplied from coastal or border points. Sometimes deliveries are made by dealers in person, but often drugs may be shipped by




mail, express, or as baggage. Often upon the persons or premises of an arrested dealer will be found communications, usually written in a guarded manner, as well as telephone numbers and addresses. Since wholesale dealers in illicit narcotics, in distributing centers, often play a comparatively safe game by shipping their wares to distant points only, without catering to any local trade, information of the sort indicated, if conveyed to the proper authorities may prove to be particularly helpful in locating, and eventually apprehending distant wholesalers. In this connection, it should be borne in mind that ordinary trade or geographical considerations do not always govern the distribution of illicit narcotic drugs. Someone on the Pacific Coast, close to a seaport where, ordinarily, it would be thought that narcotics would be available, may nevertheless send to New York for his illicit drugs because of price or personal considerations. Relevant documentary evidence, as well as narcotic drugs found, should be duly identified by all the seizing or searching officers, in order to ensure its acceptance as evidence in court.

In carrying out enforcement activities against those who are both criminals and addicts, the utmost caution should be exercised, and the officer should never relax his guard for a moment, otherwise tragedy may ensue from the viciousness and recklessness of this type of criminal.

On Sunday morning, September 24, 1950, Narcotic District Supervisor Anker A Bangs was shot to death by a narcotic addict while search was being made of the addict's living quarters. This is merely one example from hundreds of cases in which lawenforcement officers have been killed or grievously wounded by drug addicts.