A majority of American police chiefs view drug abuse as their number one problem and see efforts to address it as unsuccessful. So says a new survey by Peter D. Hart Research Associates for Drug Strategies and the Police Foundation. Many chiefs, particularly in small towns, report major increases in drug abuse since a similar survey in 1996. The new survey said that 74 percent of chiefs believe that the resource gap in dealing with drugs is far greater than that involving any other crime problem, including terrorism.
Asked to rate law enforcement success against drugs, two thirds of chiefs say it has been “fairly unsuccessful.” This compares with 60 percent taking the same view in 1996. More than one third of chiefs say that U.S. drug policy needs a “fundamental overhaul;’ 47 percent favor “major changes.” More than 60 percent of chiefs favor requiring nonviolent drug users to enter court-supervised treatment, but 40 percent of chiefs say placement in such program is “very” or “fairly” difficult to find. Police Foundation President Hubert Williams concluded that “most of America’s law enforcement leaders cite little progress in addressing a growing problem.” Drug Strategies President Mathea Falco noted that chiefs view drug abuse “as a complex issue that should be addressed as both a law enforcement and public health problem.”