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National Drug Intelligence Center
New Mexico Drug Threat Assessment
Methamphetamine is an increasing drug threat to New Mexico. Throughout the state the availability and abuse of the drug are increasing. While most of the methamphetamine available in the state is smuggled across the border from Mexico, New Mexico law enforcement officials report an increase in the production and availability of locally produced methamphetamine. Mexican DTOs and Mexican criminal groups are the primary transporters and wholesale distributors of Mexico-produced methamphetamine in New Mexico; Mexican criminal groups, OMGs, and local independent dealers control the production and wholesale distribution of locally produced methamphetamine. OMGs, prison and street gangs, and local independent dealers are the primary distributors of both Mexico- and locally produced methamphetamine at the retail level.
Methamphetamine abuse is increasing in New Mexico as evidenced by the increase in the number of individuals seeking treatment. Treatment providers throughout the state report a significant increase in the abuse of the drug. According to TEDS, methamphetamine treatment admissions more than doubled from 92 admissions in 1993 to 210 in 1998. However, a disparity in data reporting for 1998 admissions to substance abuse treatment programs occurred and resulted in underreporting.
The low cost and long-lasting euphoric effects of methamphetamine have attracted new users to the drug. There also is a perception that methamphetamine is not as dangerous as cocaine or heroin and will not result in long-term addiction. As a result, abusers of other drugs--particularly crack cocaine--have started to use methamphetamine. The number of youth who have reported using methamphetamine is an additional concern. According to 1999 YRBS data, 15.3 percent of New Mexico high school student respondents reported lifetime methamphetamine use.
Methamphetamine abuse is reported among adult male arrestees in Albuquerque. According to 2000 ADAM data, 4.7 percent of adult male arrestees in Albuquerque tested positive for methamphetamine. Among male arrestees, 16.9 percent of Caucasian, 3.9 percent of African American, and 2.0 percent of Hispanic arrestees tested positive for the drug. (See Table 3 in Overview section.)
There are serious physical and psychological effects related to methamphetamine abuse. Common effects of methamphetamine abuse include hyperthermia, convulsions, and cardiovascular collapse. Psychological paranoia associated with methamphetamine may lead to homicidal and suicidal tendencies. Long-term effects of methamphetamine abuse include kidney complications, lung disorders, brain damage, liver damage, and blood clots.
Methamphetamine is readily available throughout New Mexico. While most of the methamphetamine available in the state is smuggled across the border from Mexico, locally produced methamphetamine also is available. The DEA Albuquerque District Office reports that methamphetamine in Albuquerque sells for $60 per gram and $900 to $1,200 per ounce. The average purity of methamphetamine in Albuquerque is 80 percent. In Las Cruces methamphetamine is available for $40 to $80 per gram and $800 to $1,000 per ounce. Purity levels in the Las Cruces area range from 26 to 99 percent.
Methamphetamine availability is increasing rapidly in the "Four Corners" area of New Mexico. San Juan County is the distribution hub for the Four Corners area. The New Mexico HIDTA reports that the most significant methamphetamine investigations have been centered in Farmington, San Juan County. Law enforcement authorities in Bloomfield, located just east of Farmington, report that methamphetamine-related activity poses the most serious crime problem in their jurisdiction.
Methamphetamine is not seized frequently at New Mexico POEs. Methamphetamine seizures occur more frequently on the state's interstate highways. USCS reports that less than 1 pound quantities were seized at New Mexico POEs in FY1999 and FY2000. (See Table 5 in Cocaine section.) Methamphetamine seizures are more common on the state's northbound or eastbound interstate highways. According to Operation Pipeline data, the amount of methamphetamine seized on New Mexico interstates increased from approximately 3 kilograms in 1999 to over 40 kilograms during 2000.
Methamphetamine-related violence is a significant threat to New Mexico. Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant that affects the central nervous system and can induce anxiety, delusions, hallucinations, insomnia, mood swings, paranoia, and violent behavior. Abusers of methamphetamine frequently commit crimes and violent acts to obtain money to support their drug habits or as a result of the "tweaking" stage of abuse. Law enforcement officials in New Mexico report that distributors often use violence in the course of conducting business and while defending their territory.
Territory disputes among OMGs and other methamphetamine retail distributors often result in violence. Law enforcement officials report that the Bandidos Motorcycle Club, a violent OMG, is attempting to gain control over the distribution of locally produced methamphetamine in New Mexico. Additionally, prison gangs such as New Mexico Syndicate and street gangs such as 18th Street are involved in the distribution of methamphetamine.
The violence associated with the competition for turf constitutes a serious threat to public safety in New Mexico.
Although most of the methamphetamine that is available in the state is produced in Mexico, local methamphetamine production has increased. Mexican criminal groups, OMGs, and local independent dealers are responsible for most--if not all--of the methamphetamine production in the state. Law enforcement officers in New Mexico seized 70 methamphetamine laboratories during 2000. These laboratories typically were small-scale, capable of producing only ounce quantities. However, the largest laboratory dismantled in the state was capable of producing up to 3 pounds per cook.
Methamphetamine is produced throughout the state using various ephedrine/pseudoephedrine reduction methods including the hydriodic acid/red phosphorus, iodine/red phosphorus, and Birch reduction (Nazi) methods. However, the iodine/red phosphorus and Birch reduction methods of production are quickly replacing the hydriodic/red phosphorus method. The DEA El Paso Division reports that the Birch reduction method of production is used increasingly in southeastern New Mexico.
Methamphetamine production creates toxic and hazardous waste that endangers civilians, law enforcement personnel, emergency response teams, and the environment. Methamphetamine laboratories contain a variety of highly flammable toxic chemicals and vapors. For every pound of methamphetamine produced, 5 to 7 pounds of toxic waste result. This waste usually is dumped in rural areas, contaminating soil and ground-water. The U.S. Forest Service reports that some methamphetamine producers set up laboratories on federal land and dump the toxic by-products directly on the ground, causing serious environmental damage. The resulting cleanup is costly, and the damage to the environment is irreparable. The U.S. Forest Service also reports that operators set up "dirt labs" where the producers "scrub" the contaminated soil to recover methamphetamine and precursor residue.
New Mexico is a transit state for methamphetamine precursor and essential chemicals. Albuquerque law enforcement officials report that the city has become a transit area for precursor chemicals destined for out-of-state methamphetamine production. In 1999 USCS inspectors at the Columbus POE seized drums of Freon that were destined for Mesa, Arizona, to be used in methamphetamine production.
Most of the methamphetamine available in New Mexico is smuggled from Mexico. Mexican DTOs and Mexican criminal groups are the primary transporters of Mexico-produced methamphetamine into and through the state. Some OMGs, street gangs, and local independent dealers also are involved in transportation of Mexico-produced methamphetamine; others, particularly local independent dealers, transport locally produced methamphetamine.
Mexican DTOs often employ couriers and drug transporters to smuggle Mexico-produced methamphetamine into New Mexico from Mexico. The use of foreign nationals as couriers has been noted in a number of seizures. In March 2000 DEA special agents in Bernalillo County seized 3 kilograms of suspected Mexico-produced methamphetamine discovered in a rented car. Seven methamphetamine bundles, wrapped in cellophane and duct tape and placed inside clear plastic bags, were concealed inside the engine area of the vehicle. The driver, a male Mexican national from Mexico City, was arrested.
Mexico- and locally produced methamphetamine continue to be seized on interstate highways in New Mexico. The principal methamphetamine transportation routes include I-10, I-25, and I-40. Methamphetamine seizures on I-40 have increased from pound to multipound quantities. According to Operation Pipeline data, during 2000 over 40 kilograms of methamphetamine were seized during 14 traffic stops on New Mexico interstates. The methamphetamine seized during these stops was transported from Arizona, California, and New Mexico and was destined for Colorado, Iowa, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.
Various routes in eastern New Mexico are used to transport methamphetamine to other states. The Multi-County Regional Threat Assessment for Curry, Quay, De Baca, Guadalupe, and Roosevelt Counties indicates that transportation of methamphetamine is a serious problem in these counties. Located in eastern New Mexico, these counties include a number of highways that extend into Texas and are used to transport methamphetamine into and throughout New Mexico and on to other states. The New Mexico Region V Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force in Clovis, Curry County, reports that methamphetamine is transported through its area from suppliers in Mexico and California to destinations in Illinois and Indiana.
Working through established drug networks, Mexican DTOs and Mexican criminal groups control the supply of Mexico-produced methamphetamine in New Mexico. Many of these DTOs and criminal groups have established production sites in Mexico near the New Mexico–Mexico border in an effort to expedite the transportation and distribution of the drug. Some Mexican criminal groups often serve as midlevel wholesale distributors on behalf of Mexican DTOs.
Wholesale distribution of locally produced methamphetamine is conducted primarily by Mexican criminal groups, OMGs, and local independent dealers. These entities, which also control the local production of the drug, typically distribute the drug to close associates and retail distributors in areas throughout New Mexico. Law enforcement sources indicate that Bandidos has chapters in New Mexico and is attempting to gain control of the wholesale distribution of locally produced methamphetamine throughout the state.
OMGs, prison and street gangs, as well as local independent dealers distribute Mexico- and locally produced methamphetamine at the retail level. These gangs and independent dealers will sell either type of methamphetamine, depending on the drug's availability. Bandidos is very active in the retail distribution of methamphetamine-- primarily, but not exclusively, locally produced methamphetamine--throughout the state. Law enforcement officials in Albuquerque report that the New Mexico Syndicate prison gang is also involved in retail methamphetamine distribution. As it does with other drugs, New Mexico Syndicate often works with street gangs, particularly the 18th Street gang, to distribute methamphetamine at the retail level. Local independent dealers--typically Caucasian males who sell ounce quantities--also are involved in retail methamphetamine distribution throughout the state.
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