DEA Acting Administrator Robert W. Patterson
ROTTERDAM, HOLLAND ― The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Police of the Netherlands Wednesday kicked off the 35th International Drug Enforcement Conference (IDEC XXXV) in Rotterdam, Netherlands. IDEC was established in 1983 to bring together top-level global strategic and tactical drug law enforcement officials and judicial authorities.
Since its inception, IDEC has grown into a worldwide forum with participants from more than 130 countries and has proven a successful formula due to the exchange of information, the institutionalization of international cooperation, and the strengthening of shared responsibilities in combating drug trafficking. The topic of IDEC XXXV is “the economy of drugs.” The goal of IDEC XXXV is to intensify the focus on interventions in the physical, digital, and financial economy of transnational drug trafficking.
DEA Acting Administrator Robert W. Patterson was one of the keynote speakers on the first day of IDEC. The following is the text of his prepared remarks:
“Good morning and welcome everyone. I am delighted to be here today and to address you alongside Commissioner Akerboom. I’d also like to say that it is an honor to have so many international law enforcement counterparts and leaders of Anti-Narcotics forces present. DEA treasures the special relationships that it enjoys with our law enforcement counterparts throughout the world, and I can say without a doubt that our global partnerships are a critical part of what makes our agency effective and we could not do our mission without your support.
I would like to believe that all of you feel this same way when it comes to the assistance we try to provide each of you. So I thank you for all that you do and for being our partnerships in this shared mission. I want to also extend my deepest thanks and appreciation to the National Police of the Netherlands and the DEA Europe Region team for hosting this event. This is a great opportunity for us to make connections, and assess the challenges we will face together.
For decades, we have worked together to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations, often in some of the toughest conditions imaginable. The importance of our friendships cannot be overstated as we fight criminal organizations fueled by greed and which prey on the weakness of others.
Since its inception, IDEC has grown into a worldwide forum with participants from over 130 countries and has proven a successful formula due to the exchange of information, the institutionalization of international cooperation, and the strengthening of shared responsibilities in combating drug trafficking. This year’s topic is “the economy of drugs” and we will focus on intensifying our strategies for interventions in the physical, digital, and financial economy of transnational drug trafficking.
The presentations on the agenda for this week will be informative and we have an impressive group of law enforcement professionals here. But I also know this week is about more than just briefings or presentations – it’s about the genuine connections we build and strengthen as we spend this time together. These connections are the foundations of critical partnerships that are invaluable in accomplishing our shared investigative objectives, as we continue to navigate a complex landscape characterized by volatility, instability, and a growing sophistication amongst global criminal organizations.
As leaders, we all share a responsibility to efficiently manage our resources in thoughtful and effective ways. Events like this that encourage information sharing and transparency, make us far more efficient as a collective group. Global criminal organizations operate without boundaries and will expand wherever they can profit. Therefore, law enforcement must work together across country lines to leverage our capabilities and resources, and share intelligence to work cooperatively to bring these criminals to justice. We all bring something different to the table, and by coming together and sharing what we know, we gain a greater view of the overlapping threats that prey on our nations and by leveraging our collective efforts and working jointly, we can better prioritize targets and increase our effectiveness exponentially. The reason this is so critical is because there are not thousands of these organizations, the number of significant transnational criminal organizations that impact the majority of our countries is relatively small, and their broad reach in multiple countries affords us the opportunity to gather evidence in locations that can be used by someone for prosecution. If we make these groups our collective goal, and seek to put these pieces together, it will increase our ability to ensure these targets are prosecuted someplace by someone – it doesn’t even matter what country. What matters is that they are caught and held accountable for their activity.
We can probably all agree that transnational criminal organizations have and will continue to contribute to regional unrest and instability, to the detriment of our citizens and communities. We see it in the United States, where attacks on law enforcement officers are increasing, and I know all of you struggle with these same challenges, with unfortunate reminders that happen far too often in our countries as our dedicated personnel are targeted simply for what they have chosen to do. Despite these dangers, our dedicated law enforcement officers continue to do their jobs, risking their lives for a cause bigger than themselves. It is the deeds of these hard-working men and women, under your direction, that strengthen international norms of responsible behavior and reinforce the rule of law. As a result, we are better positioned to combat transnational criminal organizations and bring significant criminal leaders to justice, regardless of where they reside. The unpredictability of the future and changing threats to our Nations should cause us all to reaffirm our need to be ever watchful. In the end, we will do what we have always done – prepare and adapt to overcome unforeseen challenges, and protect our citizens.
I also want to take this opportunity to address the root of our drug issue – demand. Obviously, were there no demand for illicit drugs in our countries, we would not have the problem of drug trafficking and its related criminal activity. So insidious and widespread is addiction, that all of our countries struggle with the demand issue. And although I recognize our primary roles here are to address the enforcement aspect of supply and drug trafficking, I also want to mention our responsibility to educate our citizens. As law enforcement officers, we are uniquely positioned to view firsthand the dangers that drugs place not just on individual users, but on our nations in general, our economies, and the overall national security threats that result from such widespread illicit activity. Thus, where we can, we must also work to educate our citizens. And in this effort, as with enforcement, our countries can assist each other and share best practices and new ideas. The United States is now turning a corner on its prescription opioid epidemic as a result of enforcement actions, but also in tandem with a massive public awareness campaign and legislative changes. Where other countries can benefit from what we’ve had to learn the hard way and hopefully avoid the tragic amount of overdose deaths, we are more than happy to share our lessons and our ongoing strategies in this battle as new trends emerge as a result of the shift from opioids. We are now seeing cocaine availability and use increasing with some data models showing us surpassing 2007 benchmark levels.
Methamphetamine use is rising, as is marijuana. Chemical explosions associated with illicit marijuana concentrate production continue to be a threat to innocent civilians and first responders. As partners in this overall war on illicit drugs and criminal activity, in addition to sharing operational intelligence, let us also leverage each other’s efforts in education and prevention, because I’m sure we all recognize that this issue is larger than just a law enforcement issue and it must be attacked from multiple fronts.
On a much more personal note please don’t ever forget that you and the men and women you work with everyday make a direct difference in the lives of people you encounter. And also recognize the countless other people whose lives your efforts will impact for the good, an exponential number of people which you will never meet. There is a ripple effect to our work that is hard to capture, but it is significant and it often goes without acknowledgement. So, I want to say thank you – to you as leaders in this noble endeavor, and to your men and women on the front lines. Thank you for what you do every day.
It has been my distinct honor to be with you today in Rotterdam, and I want to extend my sincere appreciation to each of you for participating and contributing to our shared fight.
Thank you again and I look forward to furthering our partnerships in the years to come.”