SEATTLE—The nation's Drug Czar was in Seattle, Saturday, to talk with law enforcement and community representatives about what works and what doesn't work in the war on drugs. Former Seattle Police Chief, Gil Kerlikowske, was joined by Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash) and Sheriffs from King County and Snohomish County in a forum that went on for about an hour and a half.
The roundtable was the first of 8 meetings Kerlikowske is holding all over the country, including stops scheduled for El Paso and New Orleans. Kerlikowske is expected to take the information back to Washington and work with the President to write new drug control policies.
Kerlikowske said he is alarmed by the growing rate of prescription drug abuse "these are drugs, not flowing across a border, drugs that are coming right out of extended care facilities and right out of medicine cabinets." But he acknowledged there are still many street drugs that pose a problem, including methamphetamine.
Rep. Inslee talked about legislation currently in Congress that would help with the ongoing problem of people flushing leftover prescription drugs down the toilet. Inslee said it's putting dangerous compounds in Puget Sound and they want the D.E.A. to help local communities properly dispose of the medications.
Interim Seattle Police Chief John Diaz was among those contributing to the discussion. Diaz said they are trying several alternative methods to curb drug abuse. "This idea; that you could arrest everyone and it's going to get better, isn't working" Diaz said.
The discussion also included information about Seattle's new Drug Market Initiative. The department recently gave 16 low-level drug dealers the chance to avoid arrest by seeking drug treatment or job training. Police and community members appealed to the group to stop selling drugs and change their lifestyle. Interim Chief John Diaz said two of the men have been arrested but they are still watching to see if this program is successful for others.
On the streets of Seattle, many people are anxious to see results. Belltown resident Sean O'Neill said he's frustrated by the blatant drug use and sales in his neighborhood "I've seen a lot of people snorting and shooting, doing things of that nature and I always wonder how that occurs on the streets of Seattle."
Fernando Sanchez has lived in Belltown for 11 years, he's encouraged by new techniques police are trying "this is a demand issue." Sanchez believes they need to focus on programs that encourage users to change their lifestyle "the approach we've had for the last 20 years, from 'Just Say No' hasn't worked." "We need to try something else" Diaz said.
The Obama Administration's first Drug Control Policy is expected to be released in February.