WASHINGTON — The nation's cities, financially strapped and fighting worsening drug problems, have received little of the $687 million Congress appropriated last year for the "war on drugs," the U.S. Conference of Mayors said Tuesday.
In a survey of 42 cities, the conference found that most of the funds--designated for law enforcement and education and treatment programs--have been bottled up in federal and state bureaucracies.
Moreover, the mayors' group complained, appropriations for fiscal 1988, which began Oct. 1, amount to less than the previous year's.
The mayors' report was released exactly one year after President Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act. It was issued amid an epidemic of drug use in the surveyed cities--in which drug-related cases amounted to 243,000, or 14% of the 1.8 million arrests made last year--and amid escalating criticism that the federal effort is inefficient and hampered by a lack of direction.
Richard L. Berkley, mayor of Kansas City, Mo., and president of the conference, described the mayors as "very frustrated" and disheartened.
He added: "This survey suggests that America has lost its first battle in the war on drugs by default."
Berkley, speaking in a news conference, took a swipe at the Reagan Administration's use of block grants. He said that federal funds, "however limited," should go directly to the cities and "not through a bureaucratic tangle of federal and state checkpoints."
The cities surveyed included Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, New Orleans, Atlanta and Savannah, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., Trenton, N. J., and Toledo, Ohio.
The study found that, of $225 million appropriated for drug law enforcement, only Washington, D.C., had received any money--an $800,000 grant--as of Oct. 1. The group's report noted that Washington is the only city that functions as a state.
Although $262 million was appropriated for treatment programs, the report said that $400,000 had been granted to six of the 42 cities surveyed. Only $1 million of the $200 million appropriated for anti-drug education programs had been disbursed, to five of the cities, the report said.
Federal, State Viewpoints
Federal and state officials said that slow disbursement is normal in a new program. They said that it takes time to develop an effective system of using the money.
"We have done all we can to help states put their strategies together," said Anne Voigt at the Justice Department's office of justice assistance, which administers grants to law enforcement. "We've been making the awards within 60 days or less from the time we receive them."
At the National Assn. of Governors, Rae Bond said: "Everyone would like the funds to flow more quickly, but that's not always possible. It's not the way the system generally works."