Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks in Miami, Florida, to Members of the South Florida Task Force and Members of Miami Citizens Against Crime

November 17, 1982

Thank you very much, Mr. Chapman. I'm delighted to be here in the prosperous and lovely State of Florida. Arid I'm especially delighted to meet with those of you who are doing so much to keep it that way.

Here at Homestead Air Force Base, we see visible evidence of the Federal commitment to the war on criminal drug smuggling in south Florida. Under the leadership of Vice President George Bush, as you've just heard, with the help of his Chief of Staff, Admiral Dan Murphy and the Task Force Director, Charles Rinkevich, the Federal Government has also brought in additional prosecutors and judges, extra courtrooms and hundreds of new investigators. But most important, for the first time, we have brought together the resources of the many agencies of the Federal Government.

As I was briefly—knowing that you were waiting—looking at that exhibit over there, those emblems are the emblems of the various agencies and departments that are all united in this 'particular program—from Customs to the Drug Enforcement Agency [Administration] to the FBI and to many others, all to assist you in a coordinated and concentrated attack on the powerful, highly organized criminal rings that deal in illegal drug trade.

We've also mobilized the Navy, the Army, and the Coast Guard resources to assist in the interdiction of these drugs. And we appreciate the assistance we've received from Caribbean nations, especially the Bahamas. They've made a significant contribution, and we look forward to their continued cooperation in this effort.

There's no question that the South Florida Task Force has been a clear and unqualified success. Since its inception, drug-related arrests in the area covered by the task force are up 27 percent. Drug seizures are up about 50 percent in the area that's covered by the Task Force. The amount of marijuana seized has increased by 35 percent, the amount of cocaine by 56 percent. And the street value of all these drugs is estimated at more than an incredible $3 billion.

The Task Force shows what can be achieved when local, State, and Federal authorities cooperate closely. The South Florida Task Force is a brilliant example of working federalism, an illustration of how the genius of our political system, created more than 200 years ago, can still be harnessed to serve the interests of the people and to attack the social problems that confront them.

One of the most astute commentators on our political system more than a hundred years ago was a Frenchman who came here, attracted by what was going on in this country, Alexis de Tocqueville. He said, "There is an amazing strength in the expression of the will of a people; and when it declares itself, even the imagination of those who wish to contest it is overawed."

Well, let no one doubt that this is the real story behind the success of the South Florida Task Force. I don't have to tell you how bad conditions were only a year ago. I don't have to remind you of the growth in crime, the increase in violence, and the gang killings. The citizens of Florida, of Dade County, and of Miami took upon themselves the duty of combating crime and the drug menace. They made this fight their fight. They brought it into their homes and schools and churches and community organizations.

The tour that we've just taken over here, the exhibits we've seen, and the dedicated men and women that we've met are a tribute to your efforts and to the willingness of so many of you to take time out of busy lives and do something extraordinary for your community and your country.

You demanded action from the elected officials at all levels. You saw those demands met, not only at the Federal level but by local and State authorities who agreed to spend millions more for policemen, prosecutors, judges, and prisons. Through the wide range of self-help measures, you mobilized all the resources of home, neighborhood, and community for the battle against drug smugglers and their criminal associates. And in doing all this, you tapped the real strength of our political system—the spirit, energy, and will of everyday people who, acting through their private social institutions as well as their political system, achieved far more than any government planner or bureaucratic dreamer could ever hope to achieve.

Now, this is not to say the battle is won. The influx of drugs into south Florida and other areas of the Nation is still a serious problem. Much of the work against this menace lies ahead of us. But the measure of your initial success here is not just found in the statistics that I cited. The measure of that success is also found in what we at the Federal level, inspired by your example and your leadership, are now setting out to do.

A month ago in Washington, I was pleased to announce a sweeping, nationwide anticrime initiative developed by Attorney General William French Smith, based largely on the example that was set by you who are responsible for the South Florida Task Force. This initiative will establish 12 new regional task forces which, like yours, bring together all our resources to combat the major drug traffic and the crime problems in those areas. It'll bring a thousand new investigators to the fight against illegal drugs and other forms of organized crime. It will also increase the ranks of Federal prosecutors by 200, a significant increase over the current strength of organized crime's strike forces.

As I've said before, our goal is cracking down not only on the drug trade but on all organized criminal syndicates that have been permitted to exist in America for far too long.

We will soon appoint a Presidential commission on organized crime with a 3-year mandate to conduct region-by-region hearings on the influence and impact of organized crime throughout America.

We're inaugurating a special Governors project to mobilize the Nation's Governors in this battle and to provide for additional cooperation between State and Federal authorities.

We're establishing a new Cabinet-level committee on organized crime and a subcabinet working group to bring together representatives from many Federal agencies and coordinate their work.

We're also establishing a new Federal program in Glynco, Georgia, for advanced training for local and State law enforcement agents in combating the new and more sophisticated forms of crime.

We will open a new legislative offensive to bring about approval for reform in criminal statutes dealing with bail, sentencing, criminal forfeiture, the exclusionary rule, and labor racketeering.

Incidentally, let me just give you an example. Sometimes, hearing that term "the exclusionary rule"—this is a rule—it isn't a law; it's case law. It was a judicial decision once made that now has evidence thrown out of court if they feel there was some technical violation in the way that the evidence was obtained. And I'll give you a classical example of how foolish we can be in our adherence to technicalities.

In my own State of California a few years ago, two narcotics agents had enough evidence to get a search warrant for a home where they believed the man and woman, the husband and wife there, were engaged in the narcotics trade. They came in with their warrant. They searched this house, found nothing. And as they were leaving, on a hunch, one of them turned back to the baby in the crib and looked in his diapers and there was the heroin—the evidence thrown out of court because the baby hadn't given its permission to be searched. And the two—the couple went free.

Well, we're going to have some powerful new weapons now in the battle against organized crime and especially the drug trade.

Finally, new financial resources will be allocated for prison and jail facilities so that the mistake of releasing dangerous criminals because of overcrowded prisons will not be repeated.

Now, there are those, of course, who say the program is too ambitious and who point to failed efforts in the past and predict our certain failure in the future. No government can ever fully eliminate crime or the human impulses that lead to it. But your South Florida Task Force proves that we have the will and the resources to break up organized crime—syndicates that, for too long, have been a terrible blot on our nation's history.

I repeat what I said when I announced this program: Our goal is to break the power of the mob in America and nothing short of it. We mean to end their profits, imprison their members, and cripple their organizations. And if anyone doubts what Federal, State, and local authorities, working with the support of the people, can achieve, let them come to south Florida, to Dade County, and to Miami, and to see here what we've seen today: aroused citizens and responsive officials who mean to make their county, their State, their cities a place where decent, law-abiding people can live without being victimized by career criminals and professional wrongdoers.

We especially need the support of all of you here today for the legislative part of this initiative. During talks with the Justice Department prosecutors in the field, Associate Attorney General Rudy Giuliani reports that doing something about our lax bail and parole system and criminal forfeiture laws is constantly mentioned as effective crime-fighting reforms. I wonder how many of you know that we have already proposed to the Congress reforms in these areas that would make life much tougher for the professional criminal. I wonder how many of you know that parole reform passed the Senate by a vote of 95 to 1, that bail reform passed the Senate by a vote of 95 to 1, and that strengthened criminal forfeiture laws passed the Senate by a vote of 95 to 1. And I wonder how many of you know that in the House of Representatives our crime package has remained bottled up in committee.

The Congress owes it to the American people to act on these proposals and on the rest of our anticrime agenda. Today I ask for your support and the support of the American people in urging the Congress to take immediate action on this program.

I know that support will be forthcoming. What you've done here in south Florida is one example of how seriously the American people take the issue of crime and the extent to which they're willing to go to do something about it. I'm especially pleased that Senator Paula Hawkins could be with us here today. She's one of the 95.

Now, what you've done here is an inspiration to those of us in Washington and to all of your countrymen. And today on their behalf I want to thank you, promise you our continued support for your efforts to make America's homes and neighborhoods safe again. We're going to get the job done between all of us.

Thank you for being here, and again God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 11:45 a.m. in Hangar 741 on Homestead Air Force Base, Fla. He was introduced by Alvah Chapman, chairman of Miami Citizens Against Crime.

Prior to his remarks, the President viewed an exhibit of drugs and other contraband seized during operations of the South Florida Task Force, as well as equipment used in the seizures. The exhibit was mounted in Hangar 741.

Following his remarks, the President left Homestead A.FB. and returned to Washington, D.C.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks in Miami, Florida, to Members of the South Florida Task Force and Members of Miami Citizens Against Crime Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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