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Delaware Drug Threat Assessment
March 2002



Map of Delaware.

Note: This map displays features mentioned in the report.

Delaware is one of the least populous states in the nation with only 784,000 residents. Wilmington, with 72,848 residents, is Delaware's largest city and is located in New Castle County, only 30 miles south of Philadelphia--a primary transportation hub and distribution center for many of the drugs distributed and abused in Delaware. In addition, the state is within easy driving distance of Baltimore, New York City, and Washington, D.C., all of which are drug distribution centers for Delaware.

The population in Delaware is predominantly Caucasian, rendering it difficult for drug distributors of other races to blend in easily. Approximately 75 percent of the population is Caucasian, 19 percent is African American, and the rest is Asian or other races, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.

Fast Facts
Population (2000) 783,600
U.S. population ranking 45th
Median household income (1997) $46,839
Unemployment rate (2001) 3.5%
Land area 2,057 square miles
Shoreline 381 miles 
Coastline 28 miles 
Capital Dover 
Other principal cities Georgetown, Milford, Newark, Wilmington 
Number of counties
Principal industries Chemicals, food processing, farming, fishing 

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Delaware has numerous highways that are used to transport both licit and illicit goods to and from the state. Interstate 95, the major north-south route on the East Coast, provides direct access to Baltimore, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., among other cities. Transporters frequently ship goods into and through the state in private and commercial vehicles and on buses using U.S. Highways 13 and 113 and State Route 1. According to Operation Pipeline and Convoy data, private vehicles are the primary means used to transport drugs to Delaware.

The Port of Wilmington, Delaware's principal seaport, is a full-service, deepwater port that handles over 400 vessels and 5 million tons of import/export cargo annually. Commercial maritime cargo shipped to the port usually is transported to East Coast cities by rail and in tractor-trailers on I-95. Forty-five percent of the cargo (by weight) arriving at the Port of Wilmington is containerized and noncontainerized shipments of fresh fruit and fruit products from Central and South America. Colombian drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) occasionally smuggle drugs, primarily cocaine, through the Port of Wilmington to Baltimore, New York City, and Philadelphia, according to federal law enforcement data. However, state law enforcement officials recorded only two cocaine, one heroin, and one marijuana seizure at the port from fiscal year (FY) 1995 to FY2000.

Operations Convoy, Pipeline, and Jetway

Operation Convoy is a national highway interdiction program supported by the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC). It targets drug transportation organizations that use commercial vehicles to traffic drugs.

Operation Pipeline is an EPIC-supported national highway interdiction program. It operates along the highways and interstates most commonly used to transport illegal drugs and drug proceeds and targets privately owned vehicles.

Operation Jetway is an EPIC-supported domestic airport interdiction program. It operates across the nation at airports, train stations, bus stations, package shipment facilities, U.S. Post Offices, and airport hotels and motels.

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Delaware has two freight rail lines and one passenger rail line that provides daily service between New York City and Washington, D.C., among other cities. The train station in Wilmington, one of the busiest in the nation, services more than 130 passenger trains daily. Two freight lines serve the Port of Wilmington and most major industrial sites in Delaware. However, law enforcement officials in Delaware rarely seize drugs from trains.

Delaware has no national or international airports, limiting the airborne smuggling threat. Most of the air passengers and cargo destined for Delaware transit the Philadelphia and Baltimore-Washington International Airports. New Castle County Airport is the largest airport in the state that offers commuter flights and air cargo service to the Philadelphia and Baltimore-Washington International Airports, as well as air cargo service from Mexico. Under Operation Jetway, law enforcement officials seized four airmail parcels containing a total of 23.67 pounds of marijuana in Cypress, California, and Harlingen, Texas, in 2000. The marijuana was destined for Dover, Georgetown, and Wilmington.

Local independent Caucasian and African American dealers are the dominant transporters and wholesale and retail distributors of drugs in the state. Many of these dealers maintain relationships with Dominican and Jamaican criminal groups based in Baltimore, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Philadelphia, or Washington, D.C. These relationships help to keep drug supplies and prices relatively constant.

Pagans Outlaw Motorcycle Gang

Pagans is a regional outlaw motorcycle gang (OMG) that was founded in Prince George's County, Maryland, in 1959. It expanded throughout the 1960s by generating new chapters and absorbing smaller OMGs. It is now the predominant OMG in the Mid-Atlantic region. Pagans is governed by a "mother chapter" that is the central leadership and policymaking authority for the gang. Individual chapters have a leadership structure with positions similar to the mother chapter. Delaware has three Pagans chapters--in New Castle, Kent, and Sussex Counties. Pagans has produced and distributed methamphetamine since its inception and later distributed cocaine. Pagans members also committed murders, vehicle thefts, black market firearms violations, and extortion.

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OMGs also transport and distribute retail quantities of illicit drugs in the state. The Pagans OMG, the largest of 10 in the state, is the primary OMG that transports and distributes retail quantities of illicit drugs, primarily cocaine and methamphetamine. It has strong associations with and reportedly sells drugs to the other nine gangs: 2nd Brigade, Delaware Knights, Four Seasons, Over the Hill Gang, Road Crew, Thunderguards, Tribe, Vietnam Veterans, and Wheels of Soul.

Of the few organized street gangs that operate in Delaware, Hispanic gangs such as the Latin Kings and, to a lesser extent, Mexican gang members transport and distribute cocaine and marijuana in Delaware. According to the East Coast Gang Investigators Association, Delaware is experiencing increased gang activity from Bloods affiliated with United Blood Nation and from Crips.

Street Gangs in Delaware

Latin Kings is a predominantly Hispanic street and prison gang with two major factions, one in Chicago and the other in northeastern states including Delaware. This gang started as a social group in Hispanic communities but evolved into a criminal enterprise that distributes drugs and commits violent crimes. Latin Kings is a highly structured gang that enforces strict, detailed charters to maintain discipline. The Chicago-based Latin Kings is the foundation upon which all Latin Kings gangs are based. Latin Kings in the Northeast started in the Connecticut prison system in the late 1980s.

Bloods and Crips gangs, originally formed in Los Angeles in the 1960s, are composed primarily of African Americans. They represent two distinct groups with many unorganized factions, known as sets. Bloods and Crips are typically rivals who have a deep hatred for one another. Since the mid-1980s these gangs spread across much of the United States. United Blood Nation is a coalition of Bloods sets that formed in the New York prison system. United Blood Nation is more structured than the Los Angeles-based Bloods and Crips, and includes Hispanic, Caucasian, and Asian individuals among its members.

Investigative data indicate that drugs are distributed and abused increasingly in Delaware. The number of drug-related arrests increased 16 percent statewide from 1998 to 1999. Most drug-related arrests (2,380 of 3,856) that year occurred in New Castle County. The number of adults arrested for drug-related offenses in Delaware increased 14 percent from 1998 to 1999, while the number of juveniles arrested for drug-related offenses increased 30 percent during that period. Sussex County officials reported the greatest percentage increases, followed by New Castle and Kent Counties, according to the Delaware Criminal Justice Uniform Crime Report.

Table 1. Drug-Related Arrests, Delaware, 1994-1999

1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
Adult 2,043 2,439 2,304 2,491 2,785 3,168
Juvenile   413   597   617   602  529   688
Total 2,456 3,036 2,921 3,093 3,314 3,856

Source: Delaware State Police.

Federal sentencing data reflect a decrease in the number of drug-related crimes in Delaware, despite an increase nationwide. The number of drug-related federal sentences in Delaware decreased over 41 percent from 34 in FY1998 to 20 in FY2000, compared with a nationwide increase of nearly 14 percent from 20,618 in FY1998 to 23,423 in FY2000, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Although the number of cocaine-related federal sentences decreased from 30 in FY1998 to 21 in FY1999 to 16 in FY2000, cocaine accounted for more drug-related federal sentences than any other drug during that period. The state had no heroin-related federal sentences from FY1995 to FY1997. In FY1998 there were two heroin-related sentences, four in FY1999, and one in FY2000.

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Drugs are commonly abused in Delaware. According to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, an estimated 49,000 Delaware residents--about 7.8 percent of the population--reportedly abused illicit drugs in the past month in 1999. Of those who reported abusing drugs in the past month, approximately 57 percent were 25 years of age and under. According to the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), in 1999 Delaware ranked fourteenth nationally in the total number of drug-related treatment admissions per 100,000. The state recorded the fourth highest rate of cocaine-related treatment admissions and fifth highest rate of heroin-related treatment admissions per 100,000 residents in the nation in 1999. According to the state Division of Alcoholism, Drug Abuse and Mental Health, the number of alcohol- and drug-related treatment admissions increased from 6,842 in 1995 to 7,789 in 2000, primarily because of an increase in the number of heroin- and marijuana-related treatment admissions.

Table 2. Alcohol- and Drug-Related Treatment Admissions to Publicly Funded Facilities, Delaware, 1995-2000

Type Year
1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
Alcohol 3,227 2,778 2,218 2,069 2,429 2,759
Heroin 1,410 1,636 1,767 2,040 2,393 2,356
Powdered Cocaine   697    561   387   437    521    491
Crack Cocaine   785   759   782   856   936    974
Marijuana   334   400   532   669   838 1,039
Amphetamine       9      14       6     13       9      14
Others   380   242    181    211   157 156

Source: The Delaware Health and Social Services Division of Alcoholism, Drug Abuse and Mental Health.

According to Federal-wide Drug Seizure System (FDSS) data, the amount of cocaine seized in FY2000 declined substantially from that seized in FY1998 when the highest amount was recorded. Marijuana seizures in FY2000 declined substantially from the peak year of FY1997. The amount of heroin seized between FY1995 and FY2000 was nominal.

Table 3. Heroin, Cocaine, and Marijuana Seizures, Kilograms, Delaware, FY1995-FY2000

  Heroin Cocaine Marijuana
FY1995 0.0 1.9 10.5
FY1996 1.1 29.1 11.1
FY1997 0.1 64.8 33.6
FY1998 1.7 158.6 7.4
FY1999 0.0 2.2 5.4
FY2000 0.0 42.9 3.0

Source: DEA, Federal-wide Drug Seizure System.

The financial impact of substance abuse on the government of Delaware is significant. Delaware spent $500 per person in 1998 on substance abuse-related services, third in the nation behind Washington, D.C., and Alaska, according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. In 1998 the state spent over $367 million on substance abuse-related programs and services including justice, education, health, child-family assistance, mental health-developmental disabilities, and public safety. This figure amounted to over 10 percent of the total expenditures for the state. When adding the cost of lost productivity and nongovernmental expenses by private social services, estimates for total substance abuse-related costs are even higher.

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