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State Lawmakers Push Bush on Drugs : Declare L.A., Border Areas Trafficking Zones, President Urged

Times Staff Writer

President Bush’s $8-billion war on drugs may turn up the heat on the Colombian cocaine cartel but it does not go far enough to stem the flow of narcotics through Southern California, state lawmakers contend.

And to make the point, the state Assembly on Wednesday unanimously approved language calling on Bush to officially declare the gang-torn neighborhoods of Los Angeles and the porous international border along San Diego and Imperial counties as “high intensity drug trafficking areas.”

Under the law now, Bush and his federal drug czar could invoke the special designation as a way to send additional federal law enforcement money and manpower to places such as Southern California, the port of entry for an estimated 50% of the country’s cocaine.

Baffled by Delay

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But so far Bush has declined to use the drug zone designation at all, and indications are that he will not do so until at least next February--a delay that has baffled and angered California politicians in Washington and in Sacramento.

U.S. Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.) complained about the lapse in a letter to Bush last month, and now the cause has been taken up by state Sen. John Seymour (R-Anaheim).

Seymour said he is worried about the remote possibility that Southern California could be overlooked altogether when the designations are expected to be announced early next year.

And even if Los Angeles and the Mexican border area are included, he said it could take until 1991 before the federal government cuts loose the extra tens of millions of dollars needed to step up the fight against drugs on the domestic front.

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‘Foot-Dragging’

“I just don’t want any foot-dragging on it and I want to make sure that Los Angeles and the southern border area, including San Diego, is certainly designated,” said Seymour, who served as a state co-chairman in Bush’s election campaign.

Seymour decided to draft a direct appeal to Bush and have it inserted into one of his existing anti-drug Senate bills, which was up for consideration in the Assembly this week. If signed into law, Seymour’s appeal will be transmitted immediately to the White House.

The Seymour amendment includes a litany of statistics to prove how drugs are becoming the scourge of Southern California. It says that in Los Angeles, for example, the amount of drugs seized between 1976 and 1986 skyrocketed 19,250%, while the number of cocaine-related deaths has increased more than 200% since 1984.

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Gangs Cited

It also cites the rising power of Los Angeles’ youth gangs as an indicator of the increased flow of drugs through the country’s second-largest city. There are 250 Los Angeles gangs, boasting a collective membership of more than 30,000.

“Just as the elaborate and violent activities of Colombia’s drug cartels reach into communities throughout the United States, Los Angeles’ Blood and Crips drug gangs have expanded operations into more than 50 cities nationwide, in effect, constituting the wholesale and retail distributors for the cocaine of Colombia’s drug lords,” the amendment said.

The new language now goes to the Senate for concurrence and, if passed, will go to Gov. George Deukmejian.

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