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California - Southern District Drug Threat Assessment
December 2000


Methamphetamine-related activity will continue to be the biggest threat facing law enforcement in Southern California. Proximity to methamphetamine sources of supply in Mexico, continued domination of the methamphetamine trade by Mexican DTOs, the ease with which the drug can be produced domestically, and the violence associated with methamphetamine use and trafficking continue to contribute to the methamphetamine threat in Southern California. Barring any major changes, methamphetamine trafficking and abuse will probably continue at current levels as will use of the area by traffickers as both a destination and a transshipment point for the drug.

Heroin trafficking and heroin use continue to be a significant threat in Southern California. While heroin use has not yet reached alarming proportions, the ready availability of high purity Mexican black tar heroin may make it more attractive to adolescents and young adults who are open to drug experimentation. Use of the region as both a destination and a transshipment point by heroin trafficking groups most likely will continue, as will domination of the heroin market by traffickers operating out of Mexico.

Cocaine use and trafficking remain a significant threat in the region. The California-Mexico border will continue to be a major land corridor for cocaine smuggled into the United States from Mexico. The area will continue to be used as a stash and transshipment point. Recent seizure figures indicate a trend toward an increase in maritime smuggling of cocaine. Air activity reported for 1999 indicates that the area may see an increase in the smuggling of cocaine by private aircraft for reasons of security and ease and efficiency of transport. Barring any significant changes in drug flow patterns or level of availability, the supply and price of the drug will most likely remain at or near current levels.

As reflected in drug use indicators, marijuana use among younger users is up. Current seizure figures indicate that large amounts of marijuana will continue to be smuggled across the California-Mexico border. It is unlikely that the marijuana situation will change in the near future. Rather, trafficking organizations operating out of Mexico will continue to dominate the market and will continue to exploit all means and methods to smuggle their product into Southern California.

Club drug use among teens and young adults reflected an upward trend in 1999. Locally, authorities report that activity involving these drugs--particularly ketamine, GHB, and MDMA--is continuing. With the growing popularity of all-night dance parties and the erroneous perception by young people that there is less risk involved with the use of club drugs, this trend will most likely continue. Southern California may also see an increase in the amount of club drugs, particularly ketamine and MDMA, being smuggled into the region from Mexico.

The increase in law enforcement pressure along the California-Mexico border and in San Diego and Imperial Counties will continue to be reflected in the upward trend of drug-related crime statistics.

Intelligence reporting and drug seizure information support previously established drug flow patterns. All major drugs continue to be smuggled from Mexico into Southern California for distribution throughout the country. The Arellano-Felix Organization, operating out of Baja California Norte, is the primary source of drugs smuggled into Southern California. Several questions have arisen as to whether the organization has sold its Tijuana monopoly or scaled back cocaine operations to focus on other major drugs, particularly marijuana. Several top members of the Arellano-Felix Organization have recently been arrested, and reports out of Mexico indicate that the Zambada group is challenging the Arellano-Felix Organization in an effort to gain some influence in the Baja California Norte area. With the arrest of some of the most powerful men of the Arellano-Felix Organization, factions within and without the organization may vie for control of the Baja area.

Barring any major changes in drug traffickers' methods of doing business or within the Mexican drug trafficking power structures, present drug flow patterns will probably continue. Increasing commercial and private traffic between the United States and Mexico will provide even more opportunities for drug traffickers to move their illicit products across the California-Mexico border.


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