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‘ICE’ REACHES EPIDEMIC PROPORTIONS ON SAIPAN The deadly drug is thought to increase crime levels

By Junhan B. Todeno

SAIPAN, CNMI (Mariana Variety, Feb. 5, 2009) - The islands’ drug trafficking problem has reached "epidemic level and is getting worse," U.S Drug Enforcement Administration Senior Special Agent Daniel Holcomb told local businesspersons yesterday.

Methametamine, locally known as "ice," continues to be smuggled into the CNMI by a Chinese crime syndicate, he said during the general membership meeting of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce at Hyatt Regency Saipan yesterday.

"We’ve documented extensive information about drug abuse in the local community and among guest workers," he said.

Some of these illegal drugs have reached schools, he added.

He didn’t discount the possibility that illegal drugs are being transported through mail but he said the DEA has yet to determine what percentage of illegal drugs are getting in through mail or cargo.

Holcomb said the problem has become an "epidemic."

He believes that the increase in domestic violence, theft, rape and sexual assault incidents is linked to drug abuse.

Despite his over 20 years of experience as a DEA agent and law enforcer, Holcomb said he is amazed at how illegal drugs are tearing apart the local community.

Chinese organized crime is capable of supplying a large amount of illegal drugs, he said.

The DEA is aggressively targeting Chinese criminal groups because they are also responsible for human trafficking and technology transfer to terrorist organizations, he said.

"Right now the predominant threat is the Chinese organized crime," he added.

Holcomb said there is a strong need for the involvement of the community, particularly the business sector, in fighting illegal drugs.

He said two DEA agents can’t do a lot without the support of the Department of Public Safety.

"We need DPS and DPS needs our help," he added. "Law enforcement doesn’t work well without the community’s involvement in providing information."

Holcomb said the language barrier is one of the problems the DEA is encountering in pursuing drug cases.

He said it is difficult to get a Chinese translator who can be trusted to secure case information.

The country offices of the DEA in Beijing and Hong Kong are also getting "minimal cooperation" from the Chinese government, he added.

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