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Panel of Civic Leaders Unveils 'Blueprint' to Fight Drug Abuse

September 23, 1987|DAVID FREED | Times Staff Writer

A panel of Los Angeles civic leaders charged with drafting a "blueprint for action" against drugs recommended Tuesday that penalties be stiffened for adults selling narcotics to juveniles and that a courtroom be set aside to handle only drug cases.

Those measures and 12 others made up the committee's long-awaited report released by Mayor Tom Bradley and Police Chief Daryl F. Gates after three public hearings and two months of private meetings.

One recommendation called for the city to support a weeklong anti-drug campaign, "Californians for Drug Free Youths," planned next month. Another recommendation urged the news media to increase their public service announcements and coverage of drug-related issues.

Still other recommendations called for state and local legislators to formally embrace the Los Angeles Police Department's already celebrated Drug Abuse Resistance and Education, or DARE, program for schoolchildren.

The report, meanwhile, did not address actual police strategies or how to improve them.

Gates insisted that "while there is always room for improvement," his officers already are doing "a very effective job" of combatting drugs. He noted that the annual amount of cocaine seized by the LAPD is now 70 times greater than it was in 1980.

Both he and Bradley, who co-chaired the 15-member citizens panel, dubbed the "War on Drugs" committee, applauded Monday's recommendations as realistic and necessary.

"They're not just recommendations from (one more) panel," Gates said. "They're doable."

Permanent Funding

Perhaps the most specific recommendation called for City Council financing of a permanent LAPD Narcotics Asset Forfeiture Investigation Unit, whose six investigators have been operating on a month-to-month basis for more than a year.

The unit's members research and seize drug dealers' assets, using those proceeds to support still other narcotics investigations.

Additional anti-drug money to finance narcotics task forces could come from a special $17-million federal fund created in 1986 to assist local law enforcement agencies in battling narcotics, according to another committee recommendation. Gates said the LAPD should receive at least $2 million.

The committee also proposed that one of the 23 Superior Courts in the Central District of Los Angeles be used exclusively for prosecuting narcotics cases to ensure that repeat offenders receive maximum sentences. Because of the sheer volume of narcotics cases--about half of all felony defendants in the Central District face narcotics charges--repeat offenders sometimes escape detection and are given lesser sentences, committee members believe.

In addition, the committee recommended that:

- Penalties for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana, which now carries a $100 fine, be increased when the marijuana has been packaged for sale.

- The state Department of Education require drug education instruction as a prerequisite of teacher credentialing.

- Local business leaders be encouraged to develop in-house employee assistance programs to reduce drug abuse on the job.

Among those on the panel were Urban League President John Mack; Archbishop Roger M. Mahony of the Los Angeles Roman Catholic Archdiocese; actress Rita Moreno; James M. Rosser, president of California State University, Northridge; Pacific Telesis Regional Vice President Gerald D. Foster; Los Angeles PTA President Verena Temple, KABC-TV General Manager John C. Severino; Hollywood Chamber of Commerce President Bill Welsh; Rabbi Alfred Wolf, and Robert Talcott, president of the Los Angeles Police Commission.

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