As a parent of school-aged children, I share with you a concern about drug and
alcohol abuse in our community. It promotes a lifestyle of greed and violence,
and steals the innocence of our youth. It destroys health, careers, and lives. It
wrecks families and ruins marriages and other relationships. It costs us billions
of dollars every year in lost productivity on the job. It is a scourge which must
Prevention and education are the ultimate keys to reversing the upward trend
of drug abuse in our society. Central to this effort is the development and
implementation of initiatives to prevent illicit drug use, including casual use by
our youth and other high-risk populations. The most effective strategies for
preventing drug use, keeping drugs out of neighborhoods and schools, and
providing a safe and secure environment for all people, are cooperative efforts
that mobilize and involve all elements of a community. Schools, churches,
community groups, and law enforcement; all can help us turn the tide on drug
and alcohol abuse. But none can take a parent's place. Drug education must
begin at home. We must offer a disciplined environment to our children
conducive to learning. We recognize that our schools, our workplaces, and our
communities cannot be places where education comes first unless and until
they are drug free.
Drug addiction is a disease, and anyone suffering from a disease needs
treatment. But many chronic drug users and addicts also are criminals who
violate the rights of others in our society. In these instances, a balance must be
achieved between sanctions for criminal activity and treatment of an addictive
disease. There is compelling evidence that treatment is cost-effective in the
long run, and provides significant public safety benefits by breaking the cycle
of drug use and crime. However, criminal acts must be punished, and tough
sanctions often are needed to compel drug-addicted criminals to stop using
drugs and committing crimes.
A significant percentage of the people in our jails and prisons are there
because of drug problems. I would estimate that at least 80% of the crimes
committed in Clark County are the result of drug or alcohol abuse. Possession
and Dealing, the so-called "victimless" crimes, are only the tip of the iceberg.
Crimes committed while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, including
Murder, Rape, and Battery as well as DUI, represent a serious threat to our
safety. Crimes committed to obtain the money necessary to support drug habits
or to pay drug debts, including Burglary, Robbery and Theft, are never ending.
Last year, 1 out of every 90 people in Clark County was arrested for Operating
a Vehicle While Intoxicated. Yes, we do have a problem. While vast taxpayer
resources are necessary for law enforcement and prisons, it must be
remembered that in many cases the costs to society would be even greater if
we allowed the drug and alcohol abuser to continue a criminal lifestyle on the
Drugs subject our children, our families, and our communities to pressures
unheard of a generation ago. The great myth of my generation, that the
personal use of drugs is OK, has survived and flourished in the past 25 years.
As community leaders, it must be our goal to reverse this frightening trend.
It is important to remember that these problems and issues cannot be
addressed in a vacuum. The death penalty for first time offenders and a
policeman on every corner will not solve the problem. Prevention, education
and treatment are at least of equal importance. Short-term law enforcement
"fixes" are just that - short-term.
We do not need new statutes which call for greater punishments for
drug-related crimes. Indiana already has some of the most severe penalties in
the nation. On the other hand, deterrence can have very little meaning if all
those convicted are merely placed on probation and given "treatment." If it were
that easy, we would have no problem. We must recognize that it is essential
that we combat this problem on all fronts, looking for long-range solutions
instead of short-term fixes. We must emphasize education and treatment as
well as aggressive law enforcement. The old saying "you can pay me now, or
you can pay me later" is true. I've seen it over the last 25 years as a
Prosecutor. If we don't spend the time now, we will all be paying later.
Jacob C. Elder, Deputy
"Deal With It Hotline"