FBI Sees Gains Against Organized Crime

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

FBI Director William Sessions says his agency's nearly two-year-old national organized-crime strategy ``is proceeding very well.'' The strategy entails trying to determine how organized-crime families fit together in a national pattern. During fiscal year 1988, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) obtained 637 convictions in cases involving organized crime, according to a bureau spokesman. During the first half of fiscal 1989, which began last October, it obtained another 230 convictions.

While these statistics represent significant success in the attack on organized crime, the struggle is nowhere near won, Mr. Sessions indicated at a Monitor breakfast meeting. He added that organized crime invariably moves to fill a vacuum: ``There is demand, and when one family is removed,'' he said, ``another moves in to fill it.''

Sessions noted that the FBI pursues organized-crime cases in concert with local and state law organizations, and that cooperation among the agencies is important. It is similarly vital in pursuing drug investigations and obtaining convictions, he noted.

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In past years, Washington has been inundated with reports of friction among the several federal agencies with responsibilities in combating drugs.

Some friction among federal, state, and local agencies is ``natural,'' because agencies have different missions, Sessions said: ``It's very difficult to avoid it.'' As a hypothetical example, he noted that the Coast Guard might want to seize a drug shipment it knew was about to enter the US, because that department's responsibility is to prevent drugs from entering the country.

On the other hand, the FBI might want such a shipment to enter the US and then watch it closely, to identify higher-ups in the drug trade, he added. The FBI's prime drug aim is to break up large drug rings.

Such conflicts can be settled by reasonableness and discussion, Sessions added: ``It benefits nobody to insist upon'' the primacy of one agency over others. Sessions said that he and John C. Lawn, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency, are carrying out a joint plan to end conflict between their agencies, ``and that plan [has] worked.'' Sessions said he and Mr. Lawn ``meet regularly,'' in part to be sure their agencies are working cooperatively rather than competitively.

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