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National Drug Intelligence Center
Delaware Drug Threat Assessment
Heroin, primarily South American, poses the greatest drug threat to Delaware. High purity, low cost heroin is readily available in the state, and the reported rate of heroin abuse among teenagers and young adults is close to the abuse rate for alcohol, the primary substance abused in the state. The number of new abusers, particularly teenagers and young adults, has increased dramatically. Delaware had the fifth highest rate of heroin-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities in the nation in 1999. The total annual number of heroin-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities was almost twice that of cocaine from 1999 through 2000. Wholesale distribution of heroin in Delaware is extremely rare. Local independent Caucasian dealers are the dominant transporters and retail level heroin distributors. These dealers usually purchase multiounce and gram quantities of the drug from Dominican criminal groups and street gangs based in Philadelphia and transport the heroin to Delaware for distribution.
Heroin is commonly abused in Delaware, particularly by teenagers and young adults. Delaware had the fifth highest rate of heroin-related treatment admissions per 100,000 in the nation in 1999, according to TEDS statistics. The total annual number of heroin-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities was almost twice that of cocaine from 1999 through 2000. (See Table 2 in Overview section.) According to the state Division of Alcoholism, Drug Abuse and Mental Health, the number of heroin-related treatment admissions rose annually from 1,410 in 1995 to 2,356 in 2000, a 67 percent increase. According to TEDS and state treatment data, in 1999 approximately 70 percent of heroin-related treatment admissions were ages 18 to 35, and over 20 percent were ages 21 to 25.
The rate of heroin abuse is increasing particularly in New Castle and Sussex Counties, according to local law enforcement officials. The New Castle County Police Department reported that there were 24 deaths in which heroin was mentioned in 1998. Law enforcement officials in Dover reported an increase in the number of overdose deaths involving heroin abuse since 1998, due in part to an increase in the availability of high purity heroin.
Heroin, primarily South American, is commonly available in Delaware. Southeast Asian and Southwest Asian heroin are available occasionally. Federal, state, and local law enforcement officials in northern Delaware report that heroin frequently is available, particularly in Wilmington and Newark. Heroin also is available in southern Delaware but to a much lesser extent, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Heroin seized in Delaware is not analyzed under DEA's Domestic Monitor Program (DMP), a heroin purchase program designed to identify purity, price, and source of origin of heroin at the retail level. However, heroin purity at the retail level in Philadelphia, the primary distribution center for heroin available in Delaware, averaged 72 percent in 1999, significantly higher than the national average of 38.2 percent. Heroin was 80 to 90 percent pure at all levels of distribution in New Castle, according to the New Castle County Police Department. The DEA Philadelphia Division reported that ounce quantities of heroin in Wilmington were typically 75 to 80 percent pure and sold for $4,000 to $6,000 in 2001. Retail quantities of heroin (a glassine bag user dose) were generally 40 to 50 percent pure and sold for $10 to $20 in 2001.
The number of heroin-related federal drug sentences in Delaware is low. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, Delaware had two heroin-related federal sentences in FY1998, four in FY1999, and one in FY2000. The state recorded no heroin-related federal sentences from FY1995 to FY1998. Heroin available in Delaware frequently is purchased outside the state, which could explain why the number of federal sentences is so low.
Heroin abusers who commit crimes generally commit nonviolent property crimes to support their habits. However, some violent crimes, including assaults, have been associated with the distribution of heroin in Delaware, albeit on a small scale.
Opium poppies are not cultivated nor is heroin refined in Delaware. Heroin is produced in four source regions: Mexico, South America, Southeast Asia, and Southwest Asia. South America, primarily Colombia, is a significant source of heroin smuggled into the United States and is the source of most of the heroin available in Delaware.
Local independent Caucasian dealers are the primary transporters of heroin to the state. They commonly transport multiounce and gram quantities of heroin in private vehicles, primarily from Philadelphia, into and throughout Delaware. Some local independent dealers, particularly in New Castle County, reportedly travel to Philadelphia in private vehicles several times a day or occasionally to Baltimore, New York City, or Washington, D.C., on I-95, US 13, and US 113 to purchase heroin for distribution in Delaware. In April 1999 Smyrna Police officers arrested a high school student from Smyrna for transporting and distributing heroin. The student reportedly traveled in a private vehicle to Philadelphia to purchase bundles (one bundle contains 10 to 13 glassine bags) of heroin and returned to distribute the heroin among his friends.
Wholesale distribution of heroin in Delaware is extremely rare. Local independent Caucasian dealers usually purchase multiounce and gram quantities of heroin from Dominican criminal groups and street gangs in Philadelphia, the primary distribution center for heroin available in Delaware, according to DEA. To a lesser extent, these dealers purchase heroin in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., for distribution in Delaware.
Heroin packaged in a variety of ways usually is sold at open-air markets and indoors, particularly in private homes and in bars. For example, some street-level dealers in northern New Castle County sell "sleeves" of heroin (10 bundles or over 100 bags) and some distributors in Wilmington wrap multibundles of heroin in pages from telephone books. Law enforcement reports also indicate that dealers sometimes package heroin in capsules and hide the capsules in pain reliever bottles.
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