DEA at Work
Trends in Drug Enforcement Levels and DEA Staffing

Overall between fiscal years 1992 and 1998, the number of drug prosecutions dipped and then rose ending 1998 at a new high -- the largest volume of federal drug convictions seen in the nation's history. In 1998, federal drug convictions totaled 21,571 -- up 16% over 1992. (See table.) This rate of growth was substantially higher than the rate of growth in the nation's population of 6% between 1992 and 1998.

Referrals for drug prosecutions by the DEA increased only modestly during the 1992-1998 period, although the Clinton Administration and Congress provided the agency with funding for a fairly substantial increase in criminal investigators.

According to Justice Department enforcement data, after dipping in fiscal years 1993, 1994 and 1996, the 18,945 DEA drug referrals in fiscal year 1998 were just under 6% higher than they were in 1992 (table). During the same seven year period, the number of investigators jumped to 4,301 in 1998, almost 16% more than in 1992 (table).

As it has for many years, the DEA referred far more drug matters than any other federal agency. This meant that during 1998, the Customs Service referred 6,841 such matters and the FBI referred 6,741, a little more than one third of the 18,945 by the DEA (table).

But the agency racking up the most growth in drug referrals was not the DEA. During the 1992 to 1998 period, FBI referrals went up 42%, Customs 21% and DEA slightly less than 6%. The growth in prosecutions and convictions for FBI and Customs during the same period was even sharper -- FBI convictions went up 69%, Customs 76%, while DEA rose at only a modest 5%. (See table).)

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