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California Central District Drug Threat Assessment
Publication Date: May 2001
Updated: May 2002
Document ID: 2001-S0387CCA-001
Archived on: January 1, 2006. This document may contain dated information. It remains available to provide access to historical materials.
This report is a strategic assessment that addresses the status and outlook of the drug threat in the Central U.S. Attorney District of California. Analytical judgment determined the threat posed by each drug type or category, taking into account the most current quantitative and qualitative information on availability, demand, production or cultivation, transportation, and distribution, as well as the effects of a particular drug on abusers and society as a whole. While NDIC sought to incorporate the latest available information, a time lag often exists between collection and publication of data, particularly demand-related data sets. NDIC anticipates that this drug threat assessment will be useful to policymakers, law enforcement personnel, and treatment providers at the federal, state, and local levels because it draws upon a broad range of information sources to describe and analyze the drug threat in the Central U.S. Attorney District of California.
Your questions, comments, and suggestions for future subjects are welcome at any time. Addresses are provided at the end of the page.
Other Dangerous Drugs
List of Tables
Table 1. Adult and Juvenile Drug-Related Arrests, Central District of California, 1993-1997
Table 2. Primary Drug Treatment Admissions, Central District of California, 1994-2000
Table 3. U.S. Customs Service, Drug Seizures by Port (in Pounds), FY1998-FY2000
Table 4. Precursor and Essential Chemical Prices, Central District of California, March 2001
Mexican drug trafficking organizations present the greatest threat to the communities of the Central District of California. The district's extensive transportation infrastructure and its proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border make it an ideal location for the storage, distribution, and transshipment of illegal drugs smuggled into the country from Mexico. Los Angeles is not only a major West Coast transportation hub for illegal drugs destined for cities throughout the United States, but also a major storage and distribution center for drugs smuggled into the country by Mexican drug trafficking organizations. These organizations are responsible for most of the drugs smuggled into and sold within the district, although numerous Hispanic and African American street gangs also are involved in the retail distribution of drugs. Cocaine and methamphetamine are the primary and secondary drug threats to the district, respectively, followed by heroin, marijuana, and other dangerous drugs such as MDMA and LSD.
Cocaine is the most significant drug threat to the Central District. The district is a transshipment point for cocaine that is destined for many U.S. cities and, to a lesser extent, Canada. The primary smugglers and distributors of cocaine are Mexican drug trafficking organizations and other Mexican criminal groups. Mexican drug trafficking organizations and Mexican criminal groups obtain cocaine from Colombian drug trafficking organizations and then smuggle the drug into the district for wholesale distribution. Though cocaine has stabilized in purity and price, it still remains the district's number one drug threat. Treatment admissions and cocaine-related law enforcement actions both increased in 1999. Crack cocaine continues to be distributed at the retail level by African American and Hispanic street gangs.
Methamphetamine ranks second to cocaine as a significant drug threat. From 1997 to 1999, the price and amounts of methamphetamine seized in the Central District of California increased. Although the purity levels of methamphetamine decreased significantly over the same period, recent reports indicate purity levels are slowly rising. The district is classified as a major source of domestically produced methamphetamine. Numerous methamphetamine laboratories are located in the Central District of California, including a number of superlabs operated by Mexican drug trafficking organizations, which use the district as both a distribution center and a transshipment hub. In response to increased law enforcement pressure, some larger methamphetamine laboratory operations are being relocated to areas outside the district. Mexican drug trafficking organizations control the wholesale and retail distribution of methamphetamine in the district. They supply powdered methamphetamine to Asian criminal groups who then convert it into crystal methamphetamine (ice). These Asian groups dominate the sale of ice in the district.
Mexican black tar is the most prevalent type of heroin available in the Central District. Los Angeles is a major distribution center and transshipment point for Mexican black tar and brown powdered heroin destined for locations within California as well as cities primarily in the western United States. Mexican black tar heroin, smuggled and sold by Mexican drug trafficking organizations, is increasing in availability and purity throughout the district. South American heroin, produced and supplied by Colombian drug trafficking organizations, is also available in the area. Though Southeast Asian and Southwest Asian heroin is transshipped through Los Angeles to the eastern United States, it is not encountered as frequently by law enforcement in the district.
Domestic cannabis cultivation and foreign-produced marijuana are significant threats to the Central District of California. Mexican marijuana is generally the least expensive type found in the district because of its wide availability and lower THC content, which is reported at approximately 4 to 6 percent. In contrast, domestically produced marijuana--particularly that cultivated from hydroponic indoor grows--is a higher grade (24 to 26%) and more expensive. High quality marijuana from Canada ("BC Bud") is also available in the area. Mexican drug trafficking organizations and criminal groups dominate the wholesale marijuana market in the Los Angeles area, while Hispanic and African American street gangs are the predominant distributors of marijuana at the retail level.
The abuse of other dangerous drugs--especially those associated with rave parties such as MDMA, GHB, LSD, and Rohypnol--is increasing in the Central District. Of particular concern is that younger party crowds, including teenagers, are abusing these drugs. The danger becomes greater as these drugs are ingested with alcohol, other drugs, or both. Israeli organized crime syndicates control most of the European market and are the primary MDMA source for distribution groups in the United States. There is evidence that Russian organized crime is also involved in the smuggling and wholesale distribution of MDMA.
Violence associated with the drug trade is a major concern for authorities in the Central District. As the availability of drugs, particularly cocaine and methamphetamine, continues to rise the violence associated with the activities of Mexican drug trafficking organizations may increase. Colombian and Russian criminal groups appear to be increasing their presence in the area as well, escalating the potential for violence as these groups vie with established drug trafficking organizations for a share in the trade. The battle for control of retail distribution by Hispanic and African American street gangs is increasing the possibility of violence. These gangs are extremely violent and contribute to conditions that threaten public safety.
National Drug Intelligence Center
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Johnstown, PA 15901
Tel. (814) 532-4601
FAX (814) 532-4690
National Drug Intelligence Center
8201 Greensboro Drive, Suite 1001
McLean, VA 22102-3840
Tel. (703) 556-8970
FAX (703) 556-7807
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