- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 25, 2001

The U.S. Customs Service, in response to the growing use of the party drug Ecstasy, has formed a task force in Washington to lead the agency's investigative and countersmuggling efforts.
The Ecstasy Task Force operation will include a canine force of 106 drug-detecting dogs trained to find the drug, all of which have been assigned to airports and mail and cargo facilities across the country.
"In the past, Ecstasy was most commonly associated with the big city club scene and popular all-night dance parties known as 'raves,'" acting Customs Commissioner Charles Winwood recently told Congress. "This is no longer the case.
"Ecstasy use has spread to bars, college campuses, and high schools and junior high schools across the country. What began primarily as an urban threat has now become a national crisis," he said.
Ecstasy, also known by its chemical abbreviation MDMA, has emerged as a major concern for U.S. law-enforcement officials, due to the health risks it poses and to its increasing ties to smuggling groups.
Over the last several years, the Customs Service has seized Ecstasy in record numbers from travelers, cargo and mail packages entering the United States. In 1999, the agency seized 3.5 milliontablets. That figure jumped to 9.3 million tablets in 2000. Customs has seized more than 4 million tablets this year.
Mr. Winwood told Congress that violent crime related to the illegal Ecstasy trade is also on the rise. He said that while the level of violence associated with Ecstasy trafficking has not yet reached the same proportions as the cocaine or heroin trade, it will only grow since demand for the drug is surging in this country and the worst elements of the criminal underworld are competing for the profits.
The acting commissioner said that while task force efforts will help the agency combat the rising tide of Ecstasy use, "We must again appeal to the public, especially parents, to help us in this fight.


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