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W.a.n.t. Rounds Up Junkies, A2 Pushers Go Free

W.a.n.t. Rounds Up Junkies, A2 Pushers Go Free image W.a.n.t. Rounds Up Junkies, A2 Pushers Go Free image
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WA RN ING: Ann Arbor's Republican Doliticians. sonie of them wearine pólice uniforms, and all of them waving ilags, have declared open 'season on heroin users here. ADVERTISEMHNT: Well-armed dealers in large quantities of high-grade heroin may find attractive business opportunities in Ann Arbor, where massive drug raids have driven up profits. No major heroin dealers have been arrested in this city for two years. according to the Washtenaw County Sheriff. These two messages were clearly broadcast October 1 7 as pólice in Ann Arbor began rounding up as many as 48 persons accused of delivery of narcotics. It was the fourth sweep of such proportions this year. The October 1 7 operation, like two others here this year, was conducted by the Washtenaw Area Narcotics Team (WANT). The unit has been fighting for its politica! and economie life since March 17, when Republicans barely headed off a City Council resolution to end the city's participation in WANT. The WANT unit is run by the Michigan State Pólice Intelligence División (also notorious for its "Red Squad") and receives its orders from MSPheadquarters in Detroit and Lansing. The Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Pólice Departments each contribute two full-time officers to the unit, which also draws on support from Ypsilanti Township, Livingston County. and Wayne County Sheriff s Pólice. In March of 1975, Ann Arbor's Democratie and Human Rights Party Council members argued for puiling the city's two officers out of the WANT Squad because they feit it had been ineffective in drying up the supply and abuse of hard drugs. Statistics for 1973 showed that over 80 per cent of WANT's arrests were made for drugs other than heroin. Of 141 arrests during 1974, only 38 were for sale, delivery, or possesssion of heroin. Most of the rest were for marijuana, LSD, cocaine, and PCP. Having narrowly missed being kicked out of Ann Arbor, WANT abruptly changed its tactics early this year. Although final statistics are not yet available, WANT is for the first time in its four-year history concentrating the majority of its arrests on heroin. But appearances are deceiving- especially with undercover cops who frequently refuse to identify their igency during arrests, and whose leaders liold "press conferences" to wliich only thetic media are invited. Democrats have charged-and arrest statistics confirm-that WANT's 75 or more heroin arrests this year have largely been confined to nickel-and-dime addicts willing or desperate enough to sell a spoon or two of heroin to pav for their habits. The arrest pattern in WANT's latest roundup is similar. to the Dattern in its ' earlier roundups in January and May of this year. This time, undercover agents spent less than $20,000 to make some 75 buys. That works out to an average expenditure of S266 per buy. Police officials have said they ranged from $50 to $350. But the actual sie of the purchases is likely to remain clouded until court procecdings have ended more than a year from now. The exact information will only dribble out quietly in dozens of separate cases- years after the original pólice claims were made in headline-grabbine press conferences. "There isn't a creditable bit of law enforcement in this whole operation," Washtenaw County Sheriff Frederick J. Postill, an elected Democrat, said after the October 17 WANTbust. Postill makes no secret of his low opinión of WANT's effectiveness. He backed up that opinión by puiling the Washtenaw County Sheriffs Pólice out of the operation more than two years ago. Postill has described WANT's latest sweep, in which some 50 officers from various pólice agencies took part, as "Mickey Mouse grandstanding." The argument made by Postill and many other Democrats is that WANT officers are less interested in solving Ann Arbor's heroin problem than they are in generating the sort of quick and easy arrest statistics which will win them continued funding and allow them to keep their license in Ann Arbor. On the other hand, Ann Arbor Pólice Chief Waltei E. Krasny, with the enthusiastic applause of City Council RepubHcans, is lending WANT all the support lie can. lïic city budget allows for only two officers to particípate full-time in WANT undercover operations, but Krasny allows far larger numbers of uniformed city officers to back up the massive arrest sweeps. Krasny leut his endorsement to a September 24 series of hashisli and cocaïne arrests in the Detroit-Ann Arbor area by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DKA). The DEA said that "scores" of uniformed Ann Arbor pólice performed support functions ín that. raid. " At the time, Krasny responded to charges of politica) grandstmul ing by saying, "That's a huncli of crap-and you can quote me on that. Two days later, Democratie City Councilperson Carol Jones told Council she had information from several sources that Krasny or his representatives were seeking funds and Republican Party support for the 1976 Washtenaw County Sheriff s race against f incumbent Postill. continued on page 27 WANT amunuca jrow page Since city laws similar to Civil Service regulations forbid city employees to run for office. Jones cal led for Krasny's resignation. Krasny, however, insisted he was not yet committed to the Sheriff s race. By the time the headlines fade and the politieal gunsmoke clears, however, only a few public officials (like Postill. Jones. Ann Arbor Councilperson Elizabeth Keogh, and State Representative Perry Bullard) are asking the hard questions about the problem of lieroin addiction. Postill's approach has stressed the rehahilitation of addicts through methadone maintenance, work programs, and otlier social treatment measures. At the same time, he has called for a focus of pólice manpower on major dealers in wholesale quantities of heroin. Many experts feel that the "heroin problem" is actually worsened by laws which place criminal penalties against possession, use, or sale of heroin likening the problem to alcohol prohibition. They argüe that criminal laws making heroin hard to gct drive up heroin prices, thereby making the sale of heroin profitable enough for criminal operators to offset heavy risks. High heroin prices make it necessary for addicts to steal ot deal to maintain their habits. Ann Arbor s State Representative. Peny Bullurd. has recently begun a study of the Englisli approach to tlie problemdecriminaliztng heroin and supplying it to addicts in govemment-regulated clinics, thereby putting time pushers out of Í business. The numbei of addicts por capita in England is a tiny ftaction of tliat in the United States, and the property crimes whidi attend heroin addict ion here are almost unknown there. Chief Krasny. however, is neither corvinced by Ihe facts nor interested in studying iliem. He is on record assaying that the English system doesn'l work. Few local pólice or political leaders have risked questioning the methods of the WANT squad. WANT relies heavily on the cloak-and-dagger technology originally developed for all-out war against foreign enemies and organi.ed crime: the "intelligence" rubric, "safe houses," code ñames, disguises, "undercover" agents. marked money, hidden "bugs," miniature transmitters and tape recorders, and methodical efforts to intimídate and mislead the media. WANT turns this noholds-barred philosophy of law enforcement against small-time addicts. Given this kind of technology. tounding up downcd-out as WANT did in "Ann Arbor on Óctober 17 is like dynamiting fish in a pond.