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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 11, 1998
                           BY JEREMY TRAVIS, 
                       DR. JACK RILEY, DIRECTOR OF 

The Briefing Room

MR. TOIV: Our briefers are Jerry Travis, who is Director of the National Institute of Justice -- that is the research arm of the Department of Justice -- Dr. Jack Riley, who is the Director of the ADAM program in the National Institution of Justice, and that is the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring program. And they will brief on the study that is going to be released tomorrow, as well as on some grants that the President will be announcing. And also available to answer questions on some elements of that will be Harry Kramer, Director of Congressional and Public Affairs for the Office of Justice Programs.

Jeremy Travis will begin.

MR. TRAVIS: Thank you. Good afternoon. I'm very pleased to be talking this afternoon about three initiatives that the President will be speaking about in his radio address tomorrow morning. First he'll be announcing two grant awards that will be made by the Department of Justice, one having to do with the very serious problem of methamphetamine abuse that is particularly plaguing the western and southwestern parts of this country. And second, an announcement that he'll be making regarding enhancements to the Drug Court Initiative that have been one of the keystones of this administration's overall program against drug abuse.

And then I'll be taking you through the ADAM research report that will also be released tomorrow that's being put out by the National Institute of Justice that shows the levels of drug use around the country and in particular the connection between drugs and crime.

First, on the methamphetamine initiative, the Congress this year appropriated $34 million in the budget of the Community Oriented Policing Services office within the department to provide direct assistance to law enforcement agencies that are dealing with the very serious problem of methamphetamine influx in their communities. The COPS office will be announcing tomorrow $5 million that will be set aside for direct assistance to a number of jurisdictions that are responding to the problem of methamphetamine. Those jurisdictions that will be invited to participate in this grant program are Phoenix, Arizona; Salt Lake City, Utah; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Dallas, Texas; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The specific purposes of these grants will be to assist these agencies in -- particularly dealing with the public health and public safety hazards that are posed by methamphetamine to allow for a better coordination between law enforcement and fire departments and environmental protection agencies and the like, because, as you know, the methamphetamine problem requires a coordinated law enforcement and public safety response. The amount of the grants will be up to $750,000 and other jurisdictions, in addition to the six that I mentioned will be also invited to participate.

Secondly, the President will be announcing a significant expansion of the Drug Court Initiative of the administration. The specifics of this announcement are that the 150 jurisdictions will receive grants totaling about $27 million to plan, implement and enhance and track the progress of drug courts.

Drug courts, as I mentioned at the outset, one of the very important, very significant, very effective innovations that's come about by virtue of the 1994 Crime Act. The first drug court was the brainchild of Attorney General Janet Reno in Dade County in 1989, and since that time the number of drug courts have grown exponentially to the point now where there are well over 270 drug courts in operation around the country. The announcement being made by the President tomorrow will bring that number up to 400.

This is a significant use of the criminal justice power, the power of judges to coerce behavior, to encourage individuals who abuse drugs and plague our communities to seek treatment and to stay in treatment. So this announcement will be a major milestone in the use of the federal funds under the Crime Act to provide direct assistance to localities around the country.

Third and finally, I'd like to talk a bit about the ADAM research report that were releasing tomorrow from the National Institute of Justice, and I'd like to put this in context a bit. In this briefing room, a number of you have heard about different ways that we have as a country to monitor trends in drug abuse, perhaps best known to the public are two national surveys: the National Household Survey that is based on face-to-face interviews with randomly selected households across the country; and secondly, the Monitoring the Future Survey that is based on interviews with students from a randomly selected sample of high schools. Every year, these surveys give us a picture of increases or decreases in drug abuse at the national level.

The ADAM program, the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring research program of the National Institute of Justice, is different from these national surveys in three important ways. First, we collect data at the local level, on a quarterly basis. We do not, and indeed cannot, present a single national picture of drug abuse trends. So the 1997 ADAM Report presents 23 distinct portraits of drug abuse trends in 23 participating cities.

Second, although we measure drug abuse in the traditional ways; we ask people -- what is your drug abusing behavior -- as do those other surveys, we also take urine samples to determine the presence or absence of drugs in a person's system at the time of his arrest. So unlike the other surveys, the ADAM data are much less susceptible to both exaggeration and denial of drug use.

Third, the people we interview are all arrested and charged with crimes. So even at the local level, our sample is not representative of the overall population, but of the arrestee population. But this third attribute of the ADAM program is, in fact, its greatest strength, because it provides a window on the world of crime.

In other words, we are able to track drug use within a specific subpopulation, the criminal population, that is very important to this country for public policy purposes. For example, there as the ADAM program that has enabled researchers to document the decline in the crack cocaine epidemic in our large cities, we have been able to show, for instance, that in Manhattan, crack use among young adult arrestees dropped from 80 percent in 1989 to 33 percent in 1997.

We have also been able to show the strong correlation between homicide trends and cocaine positive trends in many ADAM cities. So without this rich data source, the rise and fall of the crack epidemic that is one of the good news stories in our country and its relationship to changing crime trends would be mostly conjecture. So in releasing today's 1997 ADAM report, we wish to reaffirm two central findings of this research program.

First, the ADAM data remind us powerfully that there is no single national drug problem in this country. The drug problem of one community is very different from the drug problem of another community, and consequently, the strategies that work in one community may not be right for another community. We need only compare San Diego, California with Washington, D.C. In San Diego, we see that the levels of positive tests among the arrestee population, both for males and females, are at about the 40 percent rates. So methamphetamine is a significant problem in San Diego and in much of the Western to Southwestern part of this country, as shown in the ADAM data.

Compare that to the city that we're in -- the Nation's Capital, Washington, D.C. -- the methamphetamine rate is less than one percent, is barely a blip on the screen. So if you are a law enforcement official or a treatment provider or a public health officer or an education leader or a community activist, your drug problem in San Diego is very different from the drug problem that we face here in the Nation's Capital. This is the power of the ADAM data is that we can make those distinctions.

The second central finding of the ADAM report is the strong nexus between crime and drug abuse. In all 23 cities included in this study, between one-half and three-quarters of the people charged with crimes had drugs in their system at the time of their arrest. In most cities, 20 percent had multiple drugs in their system. This finding -- when combined with a solid research consensus, that treatment within the criminal justice system can significantly reduce both drug abuse and criminal behavior -- this finding provides the foundation for a number of the initiatives of the Clinton administration.

The Drug Court program that I just spoke about, the prison-based treatment program of the Justice Department, the breaking the cycle initiative supported by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the criminal justice treatment networks funded by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment of Health and Human Services Agency -- all of these are premised on the idea that the coercive powers of the criminal justice system can be used to keep drug users in treatment and thereby reduce drug abuse and reduce crime.

General Barry McCaffrey sums up this policy rationale with a simple phrase: "If you hate crime, you'll love treatment." Now, one final word about the ADAM program. Ultimately, ADAM's greatest value is that it can serve as a useful, practical tool for communities across this country to help them develop effective anti-drug strategies at the local level.

Under the leadership of Attorney General Reno and with the very strong support of General McCaffrey and Dr. Alan Leshner of NIDA and Tom Constantine of the Drug Enforcement Administration, we at NIJ have developed a five-year plan to expand the ADAM program, which now exists in a total of 35 cities -- 23 original cities and 12 new cities -- to expand that to every city throughout the country over 200,000 in population, for a total of 75 to 80 cities. We will also ask each of those cities in the year 2000 to conduct annual outreach surveys in the rural and suburban and tribal communities that they neighbor so that we can finally develop an understanding of the crime and drug connection in rural, suburban, and tribal America.

This is particularly important because of the methamphetamine problem that is being faced by a number of rural communities throughout the country. Now, consistent with the belief that ADAM is ultimately a tool for local policy development, we've also established in all 35 cities currently participating a local coordinating council that represents criminal justice, treatment, and public health agencies to use the ADAM data to develop local drug strategies.

As a research agency, we believe that knowledge is power, and by giving hundreds of communities throughout this country a clear picture of the drug problems in their neighborhoods, we believe that the ADAM research program will empower those communities to develop effective strategies to reduce drug abuse and enhance public safety.

I would now like to ask Dr. Jack Riley to present some of the findings in the 1997 ADAM report by focusing on four specific drugs. What have we learned about changes in use patterns in methamphetamine use, cocaine use, particularly crack cocaine use, marijuana, and opiates, particularly heroin. And then we'll both be available for questions.

Dr. Riley.

DR. RILEY: Thank you, Director Travis. My name is Jack Riley and I'm the Director of the ADAM program. The report which I'm going to attempt to summarize is the green-covered document that should be part of your package. I want to speak briefly about the results from our 1997 study.

If I can leave you with one thought, it is that we are dealing with multiple drug epidemics among the arrested population, and that these epidemics vary in their intensity, their direction, as well as by location, drug, age group, gender, and race. You may not be able to see the detail presented in the chart up here, but you can probably see how the height of the bars differs by color, which represents the drug, as well as how the height of the bars differ by community. These differences and patterns suggest that community-specific interventions will be required to effectively reduce drug use.

To illustrate that point, let's consider the complexity of the cocaine problem, and to a lesser extent, the heroine and marijuana problems here in the Unites States here in these 23 cities. Together, these drugs illustrate some of the variation associated with age groups, as well as the variation in the timing and intensity of drug epidemics that our communities are experiencing.

If these 23 sites were ranked in order by percentage of adult males testing positive for cocaine, marijuana -- excuse me, Manhattan would be at the top of the list, with nearly 58 percent of the males testing positive; San Jose at the bottom with about 14 percent, and Philadelphia in the middle with about 34 percent. Within each of those sites, however, it is usually evident that the oldest males, those 36 and older, are far more likely than the youngest males in the adult population, age 15 to 20, to test positive for cocaine.

In Detroit, for example, only five percent of the 15-20 year olds tested positive; while nearly 50 percent of the oldest group among males in Detroit tested positive. This age pattern is held in many sites for a number of years. And since younger arrestees are coming into cocaine use at low rates, at least among the arrested population, and older cocaine users are aging out or dying out of cocaine use, we are seeing overall declines in the cocaine positives in these communities among arrestees.

In other words, many of the communities to which we are referring today are past the peak of the cocaine epidemic and are increasingly dealing with a problem that is concentrated among older users who may be less criminally active and may have starkly different treatment needs than their younger counterparts.

As Director Travis mentioned earlier, and as other NIJ and ADAM publications have demonstrated, the waning of the cocaine and particularly crack epidemic has a clear relationship to violent crime in our communities. Measuring cocaine use among arrestees at the local level is thus one important mechanism for monitoring and predicting violent crime movements.

It is important to note that cocaine use is not declining in all sites. A number of communities, primarily in the southwestern United States, are showing increases in cocaine positives. In some cases, young adult males are more likely than the oldest males to test positive for cocaine. Communities where cocaine use among arrestees may still not have reached its peak include Houston, Miami, San Antonio, Dallas, New Orleans, Omaha, Phoenix, and San Jose.

In some ways the opiate problem is distinct from the cocaine problem, while in other ways it is similar. One way that the opiate problem, which includes heroin, is different is that only eight communities show more than 10 percent of the arrestees testing positive for opiates, including 22 percent in Chicago and 19 percent in Manhattan.

However, the problem is similar to cocaine in that older arrestees are usually far more likely to be involved with heroin use than younger arrestees. Again similar to cocaine, however, there are a number of communities where the younger age groups are starting to catch up, and indeed in some cases exceed the older groups in terms of involvement with opiates, including Philadelphia, New Orleans, and St. Louis. Trends in these cities should be monitored carefully, as they may be indicative of future heroin problems in these communities.

Marijuana, in contrast, exhibits the opposite pattern. That is, marijuana is found extensively among younger arrestees but relatively infrequently among the older offenders. Thus while the numbers have leveled off for marijuana in many of our communities, even among the younger offenders, the age structure pattern suggests that these communities, indeed most of the communities in our 23-site system that we're reporting on, will be dealing with substantial marijuana-using populations for many years to come.

Let's consider now how drug epidemics can vary by geographic location and subpopulation and how local knowledge of substance abuse trends can be useful for crafting an intervention. Methamphetamine remains a problem primarily in the western United States. The green bars that you see are almost exclusively found on the left side of the map, and the green bars represent methamphetamine.

San Diego, where nearly 40 percent of the adult males and females combined tested positive for methamphetamine, has been extraordinarily hard hit. In fact, methamphetamine is now the most prevalent drug among arrestees in San Diego, surpassing that of both cocaine and marijuana.

City and county leaders in San Diego responded to this problem by developing a cross-agency task force to address methamphetamine in their community. The ADAM data were a critical component to the development of this response and to monitoring ongoing progress.

Other sites with substantial fractions of arrestees testing positive for meth include San Jose at about 18 percent, Portland and Phoenix at about 16 percent, and Omaha at 10 percent. These levels are near or exceed the previous peaks recorded in 1994 and 1995. In addition, methamphetamine remains primarily a problem among white arrestees and among female arrestees. There are some sites where the overall methamphetamine rate is very low, but the level among whites and among females has become notable, including Atlanta, where six percent; Chicago, where three percent; and St. Louis, where three percent of the whites have tested positive for methamphetamine.

Since meth use is found primarily among whites and females, these are examples of subpopulations that must be carefully monitored to assess the geographic spread of a drug problem both within and across communities.

In summary, these findings in this chart suggest that drug use patterns among arrestees are diverse and locally specific. These findings reinforce the need to be able to monitor the drug use problems at the local level, to provide policymakers with specific guidance about how their programs and interventions are succeeding. Over the coming years, we will have the opportunity to test for a wider range of substances at our sites, and in certain subpopulations. And with these advances, we will improve our ability to help communities understand their specific drug problems and consequently, to develop appropriate community-specific responses.

Thank you.

Q The release here says that the study shows that in 9 of 23 cities, the number of arrestees testing positive remain the same or decrease. So, in the majority, in other words, the testing is increasing. Secondly, how would you compare the increase in opiate testing with the decrease in cocaine? I mean, are these offsetting each other -- is the problem still the same level, just different drugs?

MR. TRAVIS: The first comment you made is sort of the overall number of individual who test positive, is that up or down? There's some small number -- nine cities where, overall, that number is down. The rest is -- or holding constant -- the rest is up. So we measure for any drug that's in the system, and so we -- that finding looks at any or any multiple, of drugs. So the general statement is that there's some that are going up and some that are going down in terms of any drug.

The second question is about substitution effects, whether there are changes from one population that is at one point in time using drug A to drug B is complicated, because we find that with some drugs -- for example, the methamphetamine numbers that we are reporting that is, in fact, a very different population, so that the presence of methamphetamine, we're finding, is more often in whites and more often in females than for cocaine or heroin or other drugs. There's clearly some multiple drug use, there is clearly some substitution -- we don't know exactly how much -- but overall, we're finding differences in the populations that are testing positive for different drugs.

Q But it's not possible to conclude in this data whether the drug problem is getting worse or better in terms of --

MR. TRAVIS: I think the clear implication of the ADAM report is that there are different drug problems; they're different by type of drug and they're different by locality. If you look at the use of cocaine, particularly crack cocaine, this is clearly an area where there has been significant change in a positive direction in a large number of particularly large cities across the country with very beneficial effects.

The numbers that we show in Manhattan, for example, where, as we know, there is a near miracle in terms of crime reduction there, show that the levels of crack use have been going down particularly in the younger population, and our report shows that the older population is now becoming the more predominant drug using population for crack cocaine.

On the other hand, the meth problem is going in a direction that causes concern. So the announcement today of assistance for local law enforcement is bringing some much-needed relief to those police agencies because the methamphetamine problem is going up. So different drug problems in different communities.

Q Since fads and trends often start in the west and go east, including fads and trends in drugs, should there be a national concern about meth usage in the rest of the country since it is so high in places like San Diego now?

MR. TRAVIS: We're not showing levels of methamphetamine use in the eastern cities; we are showing it in some of the midwestern cities. I'll have to ask Jack whether it's gone up in those midwestern cities or not.

Q Well, he said it was very high in San Diego, for instance.

MR. TRAVIS: It's clearly very high, disproportionately high in the western, southwestern cities where we're testing.

Q Since these trends often move from west to east, I'm asking you is, is there concern about meth gaining in popularity in other cities from west to east.

MR. TRAVIS: The concern that we hear from law enforcement and from communities around the country is both that concern, that it's moving from where it's now, in some cases, the predominant drug, as in San Diego within our population, to midwestern cities. But there's also a very real concern about the spread of methamphetamine use in rural communities. And we don't now test for levels of methamphetamine use in rural communities, but the new program will allow us to do that.

Q Is that because it's so easy to manufacture?

MR. TRAVIS: It is easy to manufacture. Why it's picking up in rural communities, I think we need to know a lot more about that. Let me just ask Jack if he can add to that.

DR. RILEY: Only that I think we might begin to develop some additional information on potential spread to the eastern United States as we bring on the 12 new cites that are identified on the cover of this year's report. But when I spoke about Atlanta, Chicago and St. Louis, which are the easternmost sites, those numbers, while relatively significant among the white offender population in those cities, represent a small number of individuals. So, to date, I don't think we're seeing any compelling evidence that methamphetamine is spreading eastward, only that it has a very solid hold in the western United States.

Q Do you know why it is that these communities have such different usages of the various drugs? Is it that the supply of methamphetamine is great in the southwest, or is it that tastes vary in drugs just like they do in food -- they have Philly cheese steaks in Philadelphia and tacos in San Diego. What's the reason?

MR. TRAVIS: Well, in terms of methamphetamine production, there is good law enforcement evidence that much of the production of methamphetamine is connected to activities south of the border in Mexico. So I think that there is sort of an international issue there that General McCaffrey is very concerned about as well as Administrator Constantine.

I think some drug epidemics come and go. That's certainly what's happening with crack. And they take hold in places in some places and not in others. The good news that we've talked about in terms of the crack use shows that there is also an intergenerational difference in terms of these use patterns. So that we're seeing younger people who are now coming of the age where they might engage in risky behaviors, including drug use, including crack cocaine use, who are using at much lower rates than their slightly older brothers or brothers' and sisters' friends.

In the research literature, this is called sort of the "big brother" syndrome, where the younger brother looks at what's happening to his older brother, who is now either in jail or a crackhead or engaged in some risky and unproductive behavior, and says, I don't want that to be me. So we have not only these regional differences but these generational differences in terms of drug epidemics.

And part of what we believe is happening with the crack epidemic is this combination of very effective law enforcement -- law enforcement, problem-solving policing has figured out how to deal much more effectively with the violence associated with crack markets -- and a different message that's being perceived and acted upon by younger people in terms of that very risky behavior.

Q Could you repeat, is there any correlation between the type of drug use and the type of crime committed?

DR. RILEY: We executed the study at the National Institute of Justice, published last year, looking at homicide trends in eight cities across the United States, six of which are cities that are part of this network. And in cases where both the homicide trends were declining and the homicide trends were increasing, there is relatively clear correlation between that homicide trend and the percentage of homicides and the percentage of adult males testing positive for cocaine.

We can't distinguish in the testing between powder cocaine and crack cocaine, but we do know from our self-report information that most of those individuals are, in fact, crack users rather than powder cocaine users. And so --

Q But it hasn't been taken beyond that level?

DR. RILEY: We've also extended that analysis to the other 17 cities that are part of the system, and again, that same relationship holds. But as far as relationship to other types of violent crime, that type of analysis was a little more difficult. Homicide was chosen because you have effective reporting; it's very easy to find a victim and the counts and the quality of the information on the homicide are much clearer.

Q But there's no cross-reference between a test for marijuana or methamphetamine and robbery or --

DR. RILEY: No, we tested methamphetamine, marijuana and heroin, or the opiate class, against homicide rates. There was some correlation between heroin and homicide rates, but it turns out that a lot of heroin users are poly-drug users, including testing positive for cocaine. People that test positive only for opiates, not for cocaine, there is no relationship.

Q With methamphetamine use growing in the white and female population, does that correspond to a growth in arrests among whites and females, or are the arrest rates the same, it's just more of them have used drugs?

DR. RILEY: I don't think our data are showing changes in underlying arrest rates. What we typically get is approximately 20 percent of the individuals in any given jurisdiction are arrested on drug charges. So they could be arrested on a cocaine charge, they could be arrested on a methamphetamine charge. The other 80 percent of the offenders are in there for a variety of other charges -- prostitution, property offenses, and so forth. So the mix of people that we interviewing as part of this program is probably not changing. How that translates into --

Q -- just as many women and just as many whites as always, -- they're not going up?

DR. RILEY: Correct. I believe so, but whether the underlying arrest patterns in those communities are changing, I have less information at this point.

Q Did you add together all the arrests in all the cities and come up with a percentage of positive results as an aggregate?

MR. TRAVIS: A methodological question.

DR. RILEY: The answer is no, we don't do that at this point. I would venture --

Q Why not?

DR. RILEY: It's relatively difficult to be able to compare cross-communities. To give one example, at this point, what we call our catchment area, which is the underlying population of arrestees, in some communities, it's a city; in other communities, it's a county; in some communities, we're only one of the jails that might be in the county. As we progress methodologically through the next couple of years, I think we'll be able to provide that picture. But then you get into problems of, particularly with lower-level offenses, whether the underlying offenses that you're putting together are truly comparable across jurisdictions.

MR. TRAVIS: I think the idea of using these data to create a single national picture is a tempting idea. I understand that. But I think the power of what we've been able to demonstrate through this research report is that, in fact, there are very different pictures of drug abuse patterns and trends and problems at the local level. So the national data have some value. I'm not discounting the importance of understanding at the national level whether marijuana use, cocaine use, heroin use, methamphetamine use is up in an aggregate sense. But to say that heroin use is up three percent doesn't really help a police commissioner in Baltimore, where they have a very significant heroin problem and wants to know whether the heroin problem in Baltimore is moving in the right direction.

So it may be possible, methodologically, at some point, to aggregate those data and control for the variables. But I think the policy picture that is very evident and clear and comes in focus when you look at the ADAM data is, in effect, there is no single national drug problem. We have lots of very different local drug problems, and if we give this information about those local problems to those local communities on an ongoing basis with regular feedback as to whether they're making a difference, whether community policing strategy is working, whether the drug court is working, whether the epidemic is waning or waxing, this information is very important and not previously available to local communities.

Q Is it fair to conclude, then, that there's limits on how broad a national drug policy can be? If we've got all of these different local problems, then a national role would seem to be limited in how it --

MR. TRAVIS: Well, I think, in fact, the other two announcements that the President is making tomorrow that are expansion by nearly 40 percent of the number of drug courts and the award of $5 million of grants to local law enforcement agencies in the communities that are affected by the methamphetamine problem, that type of federal assistance coming out of this administration is exactly the type of support that is needed for communities to be able to do something about their drug problems at their local levels.

So a methamphetamine grant to a city that is plagued by methamphetamine problems is -- that is real assistance from the national level, and that's the role that the federal government is trying to play.

MR. TOIV: Great. Thank you.

END 1:45 P.M. EDT