By Alex Kingsbury, Washington Whispers
Where do all those drugs in your hometown come from? Which vehicles are most likely to be transporting drugs? Which highways and side roads are the most traveled by narcotics traffickers? The answers are contained in a new series of reports published for 32 market cities, from the Justice Department's National Drug Intelligence Center. Made public for the first time, the detailed reports describe the dirty intricacies of drug dealing in many cities, including the Baltimore/Washington area. For instance, "package delivery services are increasingly being used by drug traffickers in the region, particularly to transport marijuana, which is typically sent in multi-pound parcels from the Southwest Border area. Many drug traffickers prefer to use package delivery services because they can monitor the progress of shipments on the Internet." More of the cocaine comes from cartels based in New York City, according to the report. Marijuana comes from Mexico through Georgia and North Carolina. Vietnamese traffickers from Toronto are the primary ecstasy traffickers in the region, while gangs bring in most of the PCP from California, often in plastic bottles in checked airline luggage.
Or how about the president's home of Chicago, dubbed one of the biggest drug markets in the nation? Below is from the report.
Strategic Drug Threat Developments
Drug-related gang violence, particularly homicide, increased in Chicago, Illinois, in 2008. According to the Chicago Police Department, gang-related murders in Chicago, often resulting from drug-related disputes, increased 36.3 percent from 2007 (168 murders) through 2008 (229 murders).
Street gang drug distribution operations are concentrated in urban areas of Chicago; however, suburban law enforcement agencies, many of which lack sufficient resources, report an increasing presence of Chicago gang members who distribute drugs in their jurisdictions. Officials attribute the movement of gang members from Chicago to suburban areas to several factors: the breakdown of traditional hierarchical gang structures, the razing of some large Chicago public housing projects, an abundance of wholesale illicit drug suppliers, and the expectation of high profits from new suburban drug operations.
Cocaine trafficking and abuse in the Chicago HIDTA region are widespread; however, law enforcement officials reported decreases in wholesale cocaine availability during the second half of 2008, evidenced by increased wholesale cocaine prices and decreased cocaine purity levels.
The availability of and demand for high-potency marijuana are increasing. Mexican, Asian (primarily Chinese and Vietnamese) and, increasingly, Caucasian drug trafficking groups transport high-potency marijuana to the region from California and Washington. Asian, Albanian, and Caucasian drug traffickers also transport wholesale quantities of the drug to the region from Canada.
Local indoor cultivation of high-potency cannabis in the region is increasing. Further, indoor cannabis cultivation, primarily among local independent drug traffickers growing a small number of cannabis plants, is more prevalent than it had been in previous years.
The availability and abuse of MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as ecstasy) are rising in the Chicago HIDTA region, particularly in African American and Hispanic communities. Rising availability and abuse are most likely the result of increased retail-level distribution by African American and Hispanic street gangs, which are typically supplied by Canada-based Asian traffickers.
The Chicago HIDTA region, composed of Cook, Grundy, Kendall, and Will Counties, comprises more than 6.1 million residents—nearly half of the population of Illinois.1 The Chicago metropolitan area is one of the nation's largest drug markets and a national-level distribution center for cocaine, heroin, and marijuana available in the Midwest and the eastern United States. Cook County, which includes the city of Chicago, is second only to Los Angeles County, California, as the most populated county in the United States. According to U.S. Census estimates, Kendall County and Will County are two of the fastest-growing counties in the United States; those populations have grown 77.5 percent and 34.1 percent, respectively, from 2000 through 2007.
The Chicago metropolitan area is densely populated and ethnically diverse, enabling members of drug trafficking organizations (DTOs), criminal groups, and street gangs to assimilate within communities and conceal their drug trafficking activities. The Mexican community in Chicago, the second-largest of any metropolitan area in the United States, is experiencing substantial growth as a result of ongoing immigration and higher-than-average birth rates. Chicago also has the fifth-largest immigrant population among U.S. metropolitan areas, with approximately 1.4 million immigrants. The largest immigrant populations in the metropolitan area are from Mexico, Poland, and India, while the fastest-growing populations are from Ghana, Nigeria, Russia, Pakistan, and Vietnam. Although ethnic communities are typically concentrated in Cook County, suburban counties are also experiencing substantial growth in immigrant populations.
The region has a highly developed transportation infrastructure that facilitates the continuous movement of licit and illicit goods to and from the area. Chicago is one of the nation's largest trucking centers, principally because of the city's proximity to Interstates 55, 57, 80, 88, 90, and 94, which pass through the metropolitan area. These major highways are frequently used by traffickers to transport illicit drugs to Chicago from Mexico and locations along the Southwest Border. Two major international airports, O'Hare and Midway, are located within the HIDTA region; they processed approximately 86 million passengers and approximately 1.4 million tons of cargo during 2008. These major airports are frequently used by traffickers to smuggle illicit drugs into the Chicago area. In addition, Chicago's train, bus, mail, and parcel delivery services are exploited by DTOs, criminal groups, and street gangs to transport drugs and drug proceeds to and from the region.