SD23 - Drug Interdiction and Drug Law Enforcement
In Spring 1998 the Virginia State Crime Commission began its examination of drug law enforcement and drug interdiction policies and strategies within the Commonwealth, pursuant to Senate Joint Resolution 240. During the 2000 Session of the Virginia General Assembly, Senate Joint Resolution 124 was passed, directing the Crime Commission to continue its study of law enforcement efforts.
The Crime Commission found:
• The movement of illegally derived funds is the weakest link in the drug trafficking cycle, and the point at which successful interdiction efforts result in the greatest financial loss to drug traffickers.
• Combined with the use of asset forfeiture and seizure laws, law enforcement efforts aimed at intercepting the funds derived from the illegal drug trade can successfully hamper the movement of illegal drugs.
• Contemporary money laundering efforts do make use of money service businesses to launder illegal funds.
• Money service businesses are not as stringently regulated by the federal government as the traditional banking industry. By successfully structuring funds into amounts that fall under BSA reporting, record keeping and I.D. requirements for MSBs, criminals can eliminate any paper trail that connects those funds to an illegal source.
• Because SARS are not required for MSB transactions, what would otherwise qualify as suspicious activity often goes undetected.
• Multi-jurisdictional drug task forces allow local law enforcement agencies to pool resources and expertise, thereby aiding them in their ability to target and investigate drug crimes.
• Because of the current methods employed for evaluating Virginia's multijurisdictional drug task forces, the true effectiveness of those task forces cannot be verified.
• Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are used by law enforcement agencies for identifying and analyzing crime patterns, thereby aiding law enforcement's ability to prevent Clime and better allocate manpower and resources.
• Federal resources are available to both state and local law enforcement agencies for implementing GIS. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of law enforcement agencies within the Commonwealth are aware of either the benefit associated with crime mapping or the GIS resources available to them, and an even smaller percentage actually utilize GIS. As well, state-directed efforts to coordinate the development of a statewide GIS system have only just recently been initiated.
• Criminal Justice Integrated Information Systems (CJIIN), by allowing public safety agencies to share important information, data, and documents in a more timely, accurate and complete manner, has the potential to make criminal justice information accessible at every step of the criminal justice process as well as increase the ability of law enforcement officials to apprehend criminals, manage their case loads, process individuals, and track them through the system.
Based on these findings, the Crime Commission has identified issues that may require further study:
• The Virginia General Assembly may wish to consider amending Virginia's Comprehensive Money Laundering Act (Chapter 6, Title 18.2, Sections 246.1-246.5 of the Code of Virginia) so as to better ensure the creation of a potential money laundering "paper trail," guard against bulk cash smuggling and other attempts to conceal and disguise the nature of a financial transaction, apprehend professional money launderers, conduct undercover sting operations and confiscate laundered funds.
• The Virginia General Assembly may wish to consider requesting the Virginia Department of State Police, the Virginia Sheriff's Association, and the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police to construct and disseminate a guide detailing those training opportunities available to state and local law enforcement that are focused both on drug interdiction as well as the interdiction of those funds derived from the drug trade.
• The Virginia General Assembly may wish to consider requesting that the Virginia Department of State Police to formulate, direct and promulgate policies, standards, specifications and guidelines for the effective development and deployment of state and local multi-jurisdictional drug task force; and to maintain and report on the effectiveness of those existing state and local multijurisdictional drug task forces.
• The Virginia General Assembly may wish to consider requesting that the Virginia Department of State Police to direct and approve the drafting of a comprehensive and strategic plan focused on fostering coordination and information sharing between Virginia's state/federal, and state/local, multi-jurisdictional drug task forces, and with other task forces and states outside Virginia.
• The Virginia General Assembly may wish to consider requesting that the Virginia Department of State Police to make a bi-annual report to the Public Safety Subcommittees of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees of the Virginia General Assembly on the effectiveness of Virginia's state/local multi-jurisdictional drug task forces, and to conduct special or continuing studies as directed by the Virginia General Assembly.
• The Virginia General Assembly may wish to consider requesting that Virginia's Secretary of Technology - or his designee - the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Department of State Police, and Virginia's Planning District Commissions to develop a strategic plan for implementing a statewide Geographical Information System program; to reevaluate the strategic plan annually and either reaffirm or amend it as appropriate; and to facilitate the drafting of similar plans at local and/or regional level.
• The Virginia General Assembly may wish to consider requesting that Virginia's Secretary of Technology - or his designee - to make an annual report to the Virginia State Crime Commission and the Joint Commission on Technology and Science on the status of Geographical Information Systems in Virginia; and to report annually on federal funding opportunities available for the promotion of a statewide Geographical Information System.
• The Virginia General Assembly may wish to consider requesting that the Virginia Geographic Information Network Division, in conjunction with the Virginia Depat1ment of State Police, to construct and disseminate a guide detailing the benefits of GIS, available GIS software, and training opportunities available to state and local law enforcement.
By endorsing SJR 240, the Virginia General Assembly and Governor James S. Gilmore, III took a vital step toward addressing and combating the drug threat in Virginia. Having recognized that a problem does exist, the next step involves establishing a coordinated, comprehensive approach focused on disrupting and dismantling these increasingly sophisticated illegal drug trade organizations. The drug trade cycle is complex, consisting of many components. (*1) Recognizing the unique
problems posed by this threat, Virginia law enforcement officials are employing a myriad of operations designed to attack the drug trade cycle from all angles. (*2) However, many of these actions are piece-meal in nature; that is, they do not address the drug problem comprehensively. Only by employing a wide-ranging approach, one that attacks the threat at multiple points, will the Commonwealth be able to truly impact the scourge of illegal drugs.
Virginia legislators and law enforcement officials have one unified goal: to keep the citizens of the Commonwealth safe from the dangers posed by illegal drugs. SJR 240 seeks to identify the areas most vulnerable in the drug trade, and then examine and evaluate both the statutory tools and law enforcement efforts that can most effectively impact these areas. The result of this evaluation will be the development of an efficient and effective plan of action for fighting the drug threat in the Commonwealth; a plan of action that promotes an overall goal of safety and security for all Virginians from the dangers posed by the illegal drug trade.
(*1) See figure 1.4, p. 4.
(*2) "Virginia State Police: Drug Enforcement Efforts," Presentation by Colonel M. Wayne Huggins, July 14, 1998.