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Indiana Drug Threat Assessment
April 2001


Heroin distribution and consumption have not been significant problems in Indiana, but recent reports indicate there has been an increase in heroin use, especially in urban areas such as Chesterton, Evansville, Fort Wayne, Gary, Hammond, Indianapolis, South Bend, and Valparaiso and especially among youth. Traditionally, Mexican brown powdered and black tar heroin have been the prevailing types available in the Northern District of Indiana, while Southeast Asian heroin is more available in the Southern District of Indiana. Mexican DTOs are the primary heroin transporters and wholesale distributors. The Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords, and other gangs control heroin retail distribution.


Heroin abuse and availability are increasing in Chicago which, because of that city's proximity, typically results in increased heroin abuse throughout Indiana. The Chicago Police Department identifies heroin as the second greatest drug threat in its jurisdiction and reports that the threat is increasing. Heroin abuse indicators such as treatment admissions and documented overdoses have been increasing in Chicago for the past decade according to the Community Epidemiology Work Group. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) statistics from 1991 to 1998 also show an increase in the rate of heroin mentions in Chicago. In 1998, Chicago heroin emergency department mentions were five times the national rate. Cook County has more than 23,000 hardcore heroin abusers and there are an estimated 60,000 to 80,000 heroin injectors in the Chicago area. Nearly 70 percent of the heroin abusers in Chicago describe themselves as daily users, more than double the number of crack cocaine users who admit daily use.

Heroin purity levels are higher than ever, sometimes as high as 80 percent, contributing to the increase in abuse. High purity heroin provides users with the option of effectively snorting or smoking the drug, enhancing its appeal to younger users and those who previously may have been hesitant to inject it. The rise in heroin purity also has led to an increase in demand and an increase in the number of heroin addicts. The Evansville Police Department reports that heroin is not readily available on the retail level, but overdoses were reported through local medical care organizations, and the Hamilton County Drug Task Force reports that heroin possession arrests are increasing in frequency.

Mirroring a nationwide trend, the number of young people using heroin is increasing in Indiana. A 1999 study sponsored by the SAMHSA indicates that the number of high school seniors who have abused heroin had doubled in the previous 6 years.

HIV and AIDS infection rates may reflect heroin abuse patterns among African Americans, particularly males. According to an Indiana State Department of Health Epidemiology Resource Center report, HIV and AIDS disproportionately affect African American males. In 1996, 41 percent of reported AIDS cases in males over age 13 were African Americans. This was the first time the percentage of African Americans with AIDS surpassed the percentage of Caucasians with AIDS. In Indianapolis, 11 percent of Caucasian men with AIDS were intravenous drug users compared with 31 percent of African American men. The higher rates of HIV infection among African Americans suggest higher rates of heroin abuse by injection.

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Heroin is becoming more readily available in the Lake County HIDTA area of responsibility. Although Mexican brown powdered and black tar heroin are the prevailing types in the area, reports indicate that Southeast Asian heroin is becoming increasingly available in northwestern Indiana. The Fort Wayne Police Department and the Allen and Marion County Sheriff's Departments report that Mexican black tar and brown powdered heroin are the only types available in their jurisdictions while the South Bend Police Department reports that "Mexican white heroin" is occasionally available. In Southern Indiana, Southeast Asian heroin and Mexican brown powdered heroin are the primary types available.

Local law enforcement and state crime laboratory officials report increases in heroin-related investigations, arrests, seizures, and laboratory cases in 1999, indicating a rise in heroin availability. The Lake County Drug Task Force reports that an increase in arrests indicates a rise in availability. According to a Task Force analyst, the prevalence of heroin is still behind that of cocaine, but heroin is encountered in larger quantities and with increasing frequency. The Allen and Marion County Sheriff's Departments report that heroin-related investigations, arrests, and seizures increased in 1999. Heroin cases examined by the Indiana State Crime Laboratory rose 6 percent from 113 in 1998 to 120 in 1999.

Heroin price and purity levels also indicate increased heroin availability. Heroin prices in Indiana decreased from $260 per gram in 1995 to $200 in 1999, while purity levels increased from 44 percent in 1995 to 58 percent in 1999. The DEA Chicago Field Division's Trends in the Traffic report for the first quarter of 2001 indicates the increase in heroin purity is continuing.



Most federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies cite the violent crime associated with gang-related drug trafficking as the most serious criminal threat to the state. Gang migration from northwestern Indiana has increased violent criminal activity in other areas of the state previously unaffected. Gangs are the primary street-level distributors of heroin and other drugs in Indiana.

There are no indications of significant increases in crime or violence related directly to heroin abuse in Indiana. Nonetheless, the highly addictive nature of heroin forces many users to resort to a life of crime. To obtain money to feed their addiction, heroin users often commit theft and burglary and occasionally engage in prostitution.

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There is no indication that opium poppies are cultivated or that heroin is produced in Indiana.



Mexican DTOs are the primary heroin transporters in Indiana. The Lake County HIDTA reports that Mexican DTOs are primarily responsible for shipping black tar and brown powdered heroin from sources in Chicago or directly from the Southwest Border area. The Allen County Sheriff's Department reports that Chicago is a major source of heroin to its area. The Marion County Sheriff's Department reports that Chicago, Detroit, and the Southwest Border are source areas for heroin transported into its area and that Mexican DTOs are the primary heroin transporters. The Fort Wayne Police Department indicates Mexican and independent African American criminal groups are the primary heroin transporters into Indiana. They further state that Texas and Arizona are primary source areas.

The Herrera Mexican drug trafficking organizations transports large shipments of heroin across the U.S.-Mexico border. Once the drugs are in the United States, they are stored at transshipment points until they can be transported to distribution centers such as Chicago. From Chicago the heroin is distributed to Indiana and other key Midwest states.

Gangs such as the Gangster Disciples, as well as local and independent gangs/dealers, transport smaller amounts of heroin into Indiana. The AUSA of the Southern District reports that heroin--primarily Southeast Asian--is frequently obtained by independents traveling to Chicago and dealing with a source of supply that is often one-level removed from a Nigerian source. Independents also are known to obtain their heroin supply from New York. In 1999, a federal grand jury indicted 14 gang members, mostly from Chicago, involved in the largest heroin distribution ring ever uncovered in Indiana's Southern District. Members of the Black Gangster New Breed street gang transported 700 grams of heroin a month to Indianapolis from Chicago using juveniles, senior citizens, and fellow gang members as couriers.

Transporters primarily use private vehicles or couriers to transport heroin to the area. Heroin has been discovered concealed in aerosol cans and ceramic pots, in the soles of shoes, and in hidden compartments built into vehicles.



Mexican DTOs are responsible for wholesale heroin distribution in Indiana. Chicago-based Mexican distributors associated with Mexico-based DTOs are the source of the black tar and brown powdered heroin that is increasingly available in the Lake County HIDTA. The Fort Wayne Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff's Department reports that Mexican DTOs are responsible for wholesale heroin distribution in their areas. Mexican DTOs distribute wholesale amounts of heroin for retail sale to Chicago-based gangs operating in northwestern Indiana. Independent dealers--and to a lesser extent--local street gangs, are responsible for most heroin wholesale operations in southern Indiana.

Law enforcement sources indicate gangs control most heroin retail sales in Indiana. Local independent dealers retail small amounts of heroin, primarily in smaller communities. The Fort Wayne Police Department reports that Mexican criminal groups are responsible for retail heroin distribution. The Marion County Sheriff's Department reports that Mexican criminal groups, local independent dealers, local and Chicago- and Detroit-based street gangs, as well as Caucasian criminal groups are responsible for heroin retail distribution in its jurisdiction. A Gary narcotics detective reports that the midtown area is where most heroin retail sales occur and that older individuals, between the ages of 40 and 50, are the primary heroin retailers in the area.


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