AMERICAN SAMOA REPORT TARGETS DRUG PROBLEM

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, June 1) - Expanding drug-canine searches, using village mayors to monitor their villages, eliminating funded anti-drug programs that don't work and centralizing programs for effectiveness are some of the recommendations OTICIDE [Office of Territorial and International Criminal Intelligence and Drug Enforcement] says will help fight the Territory's drug problem.

"The bottom line is - we need strong and smart administrators who can manage responsible government agencies if they are to function effectively," OTICIDE's report to the Senate concludes. "If our government continues to ignore the need for the best qualified and professional people in key policy making positions, this failure will heave a greater negative impact to the Territory in the future."

The OTICIDE report says, that for government to combat human and drug trafficking and prevent terrorism, it is essential policy makers make the firm commitment required for funding and legislative support, and ASG law enforcement agencies must work together.

The report notes a lack of cooperation between law enforcement in the territory in fighting drugs.

As a multi-agency or multi-jurisdictional task force structure, OTICIDE said its existence "would effectively integrate and coordinate the Territory's criminal justice efforts through the elimination of duplication, reduction of waste, better utilization of recourses and the removal of peripheral barriers such as turfmanship, professional jealousy and the natural disposition among agencies to compete."

OTICIDE said this will also address the lack of coordination and cooperation among local law enforcement agencies. The report suggests that OTICIDE's Advisory Policy Board is the best tool from a proactive standpoint and a broader representation of responsive decision-makers.

The report also recommends that Customs increase its canine program (K9) to include searches/inspections of all vessels entering the Territory at all the ports of entry. Currently the program, with the help of funding from the Criminal Justice Planning Agency, targets the MV Lady Naomi and flights arriving at Pago Pago International Airport.

ASG agencies who receive federal grants are encouraged to review their on-going anti-drug programs and develop new initiatives to combat the drug problem in American Samoa.

"We must determine what works in fights against drugs and how to transfer successful programs to other government agencies and private organizations," OTICIDE said. "Our government has the responsibility to determine the effectiveness of the funded anti-drug programs, and to discontinue funding programs that have been proven to be ineffective.

It also recommends that some drug programs funded by agencies such as DOE, DHSS and DPS "should be coordinated and collaborated into one government body" or thoroughly reviewed to ensure effectiveness and that there is no overlapping of duties.

The agency also said that the Governor's Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (CADA), which was created to solicit and coordinate community, business and government efforts to curb alcohol and drug abuse, needs to be organized.

"Currently, the government efforts to address illicit drug and alcohol abuse problems lack programmatic unity and coordination, as well as maintenance of reliable, accurate, and updated drug-related information," said OTICIDE. "The fragmentation of efforts diminishes overall program effectiveness and encourages waste, unnecessary duplication, and inefficiency."

OTICIDE recommends that a comprehensive territorial action plan be developed and should be a blueprint setting a sound and unambiguous foundation for American Samoa in its drug policy programs.

The plan "should also provide a clear understanding of government's role and function in these programs. Also included in the plan will be effectual mechanisms for accurate needs assessment, accountability, outcome performance measurement systems, and program evaluation," it says.

For the involvement of the Office of Samoan Affairs, OTICIDE said that it's important for the village pulenu'u via village councils "to monitor the mobility and traffic within their respective villages, and such should be coordinated accordingly with the immigration and law enforcement authorities."

"We, as government officials, have the responsibility to protect the integrity of the Samoan way of life and safeguard the future for our children," OTICIDE determines in the report.

June 2, 2006

The Samoa News: http://www.samoanews.com/

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