Crack cocaine has remained the drug of choice in the county, and investigators predict there will be an influx of the powerful drug "ice"on the streets in the coming months.
A report released this week by county narcotics investigators shows that while drug complaints are down in Anne Arundel, crack seizures for the first six months of the year have increased to 412 grams from 133 grams seized during the same period in 1990.
Although investigators are reluctant to say more people are usingthe drug, they do agree there is little sign of its becoming less popular.
"I think there are going to be peaks and valleys in its use," said Lt. James Snow, head of the county police narcotics division."We hope to see a decrease in use in the next few years because of all the national education about the drug."
Contributing to its popularity is its low price -- as little as $10 for a small hit or "rock" -- and availability, Snow said.
Although "ice," a powerful form of methamphetamine, apparently isn't readily available yet on county streets, investigators say they expect to start seeing the drug within six months to a year.
They base their predictions on the fact that teen-agers in county drug treatment centers say they've begun to find the drug on the streets, the report says.
Like crack, Snow said, "ice" affects the nervous system and causes an intense wave of physical exhilaration.
"The effects of ice can last up to 12 hours," Snow said. "It's hard to say exactly how it will affect an individual."
Besides crack cocaine, powdered cocaine is also widely available in the county and the majority of the complaints from county residents come from the Northern District, the report says.
County seizures of powdered cocaine have jumped to 3,050 grams in the first six months of this year from 978 grams during the first half of 1990.
The primary suppliers of cocaine to this area are Jamaicans and residents of the Dominican Republic who ship it here from New York, the report said. A dangerous and popular combination of cocaine and heroin has been seen in the Baltimore region, Snow said. Although heroin is scarce in the county now, investigators believe they will start to seethe same trend here.
The increased cost of the drug and a declinein its purity had led to cocaine being mixed with heroin or other drugs.
"Speedballs," the street name for cocaine cut with heroin, can be injected or smoked.
"Heroin addicts, the true hard-core ones will fire up (use needles)," Snow said. Heroin slows the nervous system, and cocaine speeds it up, he added.
"You have a war going on in your body," Snow said.
So far, the report says, only traces of heroin have been found in blood samples from abandoned syringes found by police. About two cases a month are analyzed in the county police drug lab.
But narcotics investigators in Baltimore say heroin seizures and complaints are on the rise, leading investigators here to believe that availability in the county will increase within the next six months.
After crack cocaine, marijuana is the second-most popular drug in the county and is readily available. Although complaints from residents have increased in each police district, seizures of thedrug are down from 40,907 grams during the first six months of 1990 to 7,222 grams this year.
Ranked third in the county is phencyclidine hydrochloride, or PCP. Seizures of that drug declined slightly during the first half of the year, with investigators tallying 113 grams of the flakes, as compared with 177 grams seized during the same period last year. Seizures of the liquid form of the drug have increased from 4 ounces this year to 2 ounces during the first half of 1990.
PCP arrests increased from 293 during the first half of last year to 308 during the same period this year.
Snow said he plans to expand the interdiction unit, which works to arrest large-scale dealers shipping narcotics into the county through the Amtrak station near Baltimore-Washington International Airport or using county hotels as distribution points.
Expansion of the unit would include training for patrol officers and officers from the Tactical Narcotics Teams who now work out of the district stations.
"The more people you have trained, the better off you are," he said.
Last week, narcotics officers served 17 arrest warrants for a drug-distributing ring based ina house on Spring Road in Laurel. Detectives worked for several weeks gathering information on the dealers, then set up the late night sting.
The operation began with a party at a North County hotel in which undercover officers arrested alleged dealers and prostitutes. Itended when officers burst into the home in the 3500 block of Spring Road at about 11 p.m. Friday.
Such high-profile operations are useful, Snow said, to discourage open-air drug markets.
"It makes it more public," he said. "You can shake up their security. These open-air markets, they operate without any fear."