Arrests in Mexico-Los Angeles-Denver Cocaine Ring
- February 13, 2012
- Jerod Gunsberg
- No comments
It does make for a nice headline: “Feds Make Largest Mass Drug Arrest in Colo. History.”
On February 9, 2012 federal and state authorities announced that they had arrested more than 80 people in connection with a long investigation of a drug ring that connected Mexico, Los Angeles, and Denver. Arrests were also made in Mexico and Los Angeles, although most of the action took place in Colorado. Several dozen kilos of cocaine were seized along with a much smaller quantity of meth and a dozen firearms.
This was a large-scale investigation that appears to have started in 2010, and that involved numerous local law enforcement agencies as well as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE).
Not surprisingly, the people who ran this investigation and coordinated the arrests were proud of what they had done. U.S Attorney John F. Walsh convened a press conference at which he tried to make the case that this was a blow to drug dealers:
“This is a big deal for Colorado. It sends a clear message to people bringing drugs and selling, and that is, ‘Your day will come,'” Walsh said.
This is language that you often hear at press conferences. The headlines are impressive as are the images of police officers standing in front of seized firearms. I can’t tell you how many of these “record-setting drug arrests” news conferences I have seen over the years. The amount of drugs seized in Denver certainly wouldn’t be a record here in Los Angeles.
More importantly, too little attention is paid to the fact that these kinds of records are set fairly regularly, and that these press conferences are especially popular during election years. To be sure, federal prosecutors like Mr. Walsh don’t have to worry about being elected; they are appointed by the President and confirmed by the United States Senate. But the same cannot be said by local district attorneys; there is a tendency to hold these press conferences as part of an effort to show voters that something is being done about drugs.
But even some of the officials who were involved in this operation tacitly acknowledged that these arrests aren’t going to make a lasting impact on the availability of drugs. One local prosecutor was unusually candid:
“Adams County District Attorney Don Quick said the bust means that the supply side of the drug chain has been hit but the problem will never truly be resolved until agencies focus on the demand side.”We need to get our kids early so this demand doesn’t exist. If there’s always going to be a demand, there’s always going to be a supply,” Quick said. He said 80 percent of people sitting in jail currently are connected to drug use in some way.”
There is also another interesting and often overlooked aspect of these “record-setting” drug busts. During the course of the arrests a dozen children were taken out of their parents homes and most likely handed over to the foster care system. These children are also harmed by how our society has decided to address the real problems caused by cocaine and other drugs.
It is only a matter of time before some other federal prosecutor convenes a press conference to showcase a record drug-related arrest. For the foreseeable future, that means that I will be plenty busy trying to defend those who have been arrested and who face lengthy prison sentences in federal jails.