Drug methamphetamine is creeping eastward into Baltimore, DEA says

November 21, 1996|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

An article in Thursday's Maryland section incorrectly identified HTC the Carter Braxton Chapter where a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration official spoke.

The Sun regrets the error.

A top U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration official warned last night that methamphetamine, a powerful stimulant once associated with motorcycle gangs, could become the next drug of choice on Baltimore's streets, rivaling crack cocaine and heroin.

Robert J. Penland, the DEA's deputy chief of operations, said methamphetamine use is spreading from the West Coast and has reached epidemic levels in some Midwestern cities.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

"It is just rocketing from the Southwest to about our area," Penland told a gathering of the Baltimore Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution at the group's chapter house in the 4700 block of Roland Ave.

"We've heard of it in the area a little bit, but I'd say in the next year and a half it's going to be overwhelming us. We've got to pay attention to it," said Penland, who was special agent in charge of the DEA's Baltimore office until earlier this year.

Penland said law enforcement officials are especially concerned about methamphetamine because its use is seen "in every level of our society" and among different age and socioeconomic groups.

The use of crack cocaine remains a serious problem, Penland said, but it may have reached its peak. "I think we see it diminishing somewhat," he said. "Crack cocaine is losing its hold."

But the entrepreneurial nature of cocaine dealing in Baltimore makes it very difficult to combat, Penland said. Anyone with several thousand dollars can take a four-hour car ride to New York, buy crack and set up in business.

"There are like 500 distinct areas where this is going on in our city," he said.

Baltimore has historically had a high level of heroin addiction, which continues to be a problem. Law enforcement and health officials believe 40,000 heroin addicts live in the city.

"One out of 16 people walking down the street is a heroin addict," Penland said, adding that he has talked with many heroin addicts in Baltimore.

"Some of them have said they are third-generation heroin addicts," he said.

Penland said he is encouraged by the cooperation among local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in fighting drugs.

Pub Date: 11/21/96

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