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National Drug Intelligence Center
Connecticut Drug Threat Assessment
Powdered cocaine and crack cocaine pose the greatest drug threat to Connecticut. Cocaine is readily available in Connecticut, and its distribution and abuse are associated with more violent crime than any other drug. Connecticut-based African American, Dominican, Jamaican, Puerto Rican, and other Hispanic criminal groups primarily use rental and private vehicles on I-95 to transport most of the cocaine available in Connecticut from New York City. They also transport cocaine on commuter trains and buses from New York City and on commercial airline flights from other areas. These criminal groups are the dominant wholesale and midlevel cocaine distributors in Connecticut. Street gangs, local crews, and local independent dealers, particularly African American, Jamaican, and Puerto Rican, are the dominant retail distributors of powdered and crack cocaine in Connecticut. Many criminal groups that distribute cocaine in the state also distribute other drugs such as heroin and marijuana.
Cocaine is widely abused in Connecticut. According to the 1999 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 1.8 percent of Connecticut residents reported past year cocaine abuse compared with 1.7 percent nationwide.
The number of cocaine-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities decreased annually from 8,687 in 1995 to 6,319 in 1999, according to TEDS data. (See Table 1 in Overview section.) Despite this decline, cocaine-related treatment admissions remain at high levels. In 1999 there were 232 cocaine-related treatment admissions per 100,000 population in Connecticut--the second highest rate in the nation.
According to the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services 2000 data, the percentage of cocaine-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities has decreased from 13.1 percent in FY1999 to 12.2 percent in FY2000. In FY2000 females were more commonly admitted for cocaine-related treatment than for any other drug. According to the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, females accounted for 42 percent of all cocaine-related treatment admissions in the state. In 2000 African Americans accounted for 45 percent of admissions for cocaine-related treatment in Connecticut, more than for any other ethnic group.
The number of deaths involving cocaine abuse has increased gradually in Connecticut since 1997. According to data from the Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, cocaine was a factor in the deaths of 11 individuals in 1997, 12 in 1998, 18 in 1999, and 19 in 2000. Nine of the 19 deaths in which cocaine was a factor in 2000 also involved heroin, and 12 involved methadone, morphine, codeine, or alcohol.
Cocaine abuse among high school students is a particular concern in Connecticut. According to the 1999 Connecticut Substance Abuse Prevention Survey, 5.8 percent of eleventh and twelfth graders surveyed reported having abused powdered cocaine at least once in their lifetime, and 3.0 percent reported having abused crack at least once in their lifetime. Of the students in eleventh and twelfth grades who were surveyed, 2.1 percent reported having abused powdered cocaine at least once in the month prior to the survey, and 1.1 percent reported having abused crack at least once in the month prior to the survey.
Powdered cocaine and crack cocaine are readily available in Connecticut. The Statewide Narcotics Task Force and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Hartford Resident Office report that at the retail level, crack is more readily available than powdered cocaine.
Both powdered cocaine and crack cocaine prices are stable in Connecticut, according to the Statewide Narcotics Task Force. According to DEA, in the first quarter of FY2002, a kilogram of powdered cocaine sold for $20,000 to $32,000, and a gram sold for $50 to $100. An ounce of crack cocaine sold for $750 to $1,300, and a rock of crack sold for $10 to $20.
Cocaine purity levels are relatively high in Connecticut, according to DEA. Retail purity levels for powdered cocaine averaged 62.8 percent in the first quarter of FY2002. The purity of a rock of crack available in Connecticut varied widely, from 35 percent to 90 percent.
Seizure data indicate that cocaine is readily available in Connecticut. The amount of cocaine seized in the state by DEA increased from 10.5 kilograms in FY1997 to 25.7 kilograms in FY2000. According to Federal-wide Drug Seizure System (FDSS) data, federal law enforcement officials in Connecticut seized 15.9 kilograms of cocaine in FY1998, 9.2 kilograms in FY1999, and 14.1 kilograms in FY2000.
In addition, in FY2000 the Statewide Narcotics Task Force seized 6.3 kilograms of crack cocaine--the largest amount in 5 years--and 13.3 kilograms of powdered cocaine. Law enforcement officials in Connecticut seized more crack cocaine from the South Central District than any other district from FY1997 through FY2000. An additional 550 kilograms of cocaine destined for New York City via Bradley International Airport were seized in Puerto Rico in FY2000.
Connecticut had more federal drug sentences for offenses related to cocaine than any other drug in FY2000, and the percentage of cocaine-related federal drug sentences in Connecticut was higher than the national percentage. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, 78 percent of drug-related federal sentences in Connecticut in FY2000 were cocaine-related compared with over 44 percent nationwide. Approximately half of the cocaine-related federal sentences in Connecticut were for crack cocaine, and half were for powdered cocaine.
Ten of the 14 Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigations in Connecticut from October 1999 to October 2001 were powdered cocaine- or crack cocaine-related. OCDETF investigations often involve more than one illegal drug.
More violent crime is associated with the distribution and abuse of cocaine than with the distribution and abuse of any other drug in Connecticut. Some cocaine distributors commit violent crimes, including murders and robberies, to protect or expand their market area. Cocaine abusers often commit crimes such as burglary and theft to support their habits.
Crack cocaine distributors, particularly those at housing projects in Bridgeport and Hartford, frequently engage in turf wars. Street gangs and crews are involved in territorial disputes over the distribution of crack in the Hartford area, resulting in an increased number of homicides in that city from 2000 to 2001. Federal law enforcement officials seized assault weapons such as AK-47s, AR-17s, and semiautomatic handguns from crack cocaine distributors at public housing projects in Bridgeport in January 2001.
Coca is not cultivated nor is cocaine produced in Connecticut. Many midlevel and retail distributors convert powdered cocaine into crack within the state. In response to the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) National Drug Threat Survey 2000, the Hartford Police Department reported that approximately 80 percent of the crack cocaine available in the Hartford area is converted locally. Some distributors, particularly Jamaicans, reportedly use additives in the process of converting powdered cocaine to crack cocaine to produce larger quantities. Powdered cocaine is often "cut" or "stepped on" with diluents such as talcum powder or lactose, decreasing purity but increasing the amount that the dealer can distribute.
Connecticut-based African American, Dominican, Jamaican, Puerto Rican, and other Hispanic criminal groups transport most of the cocaine available in Connecticut into the state in rental and private vehicles from New York City. They also transport cocaine on commuter airline flights, trains, and buses from New York City and on commercial airline flights from other areas. These criminal groups travel to the Jackson Heights section of Queens in New York City to purchase kilogram quantities of cocaine from Colombian criminal groups. They also travel to the Washington Heights section of northern Manhattan to purchase kilogram quantities of cocaine from Dominican criminal groups based there.
African American, Dominican, Jamaican, Puerto Rican, and other Hispanic criminal groups based in New York City, New Jersey, and other areas also transport cocaine into Connecticut. Dominican criminal groups based in New York City usually transport cocaine into Connecticut in private or rental vehicles. Jamaican criminal groups frequently employ "mules" or couriers to transport cocaine on commercial airline flights into JFK International and other airports. The criminal groups then transport the cocaine in private or rental vehicles into Connecticut. New Jersey-based African American and Hispanic criminal groups transport multikilogram quantities of cocaine into Connecticut in private or rental vehicles. Law enforcement officials report that some cocaine is smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border by Hispanic criminal groups, transported in tractor-trailers or automobiles to New York City, then transshipped to Connecticut.
According to DEA, Hartford is a transshipment point for cocaine destined for distribution in other parts of New England, primarily western Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and southern Vermont.
Most of the cocaine available in Connecticut is transported from New York City on interstate highways, particularly I-95, in rental or private vehicles. The vehicles often are equipped with hidden, hydraulically operated compartments used to conceal the cocaine and drug proceeds. Often a sophisticated series of procedures is required to open the compartments. Law enforcement officials in New Haven report that members of street gangs travel in private vehicles to New York City, purchase cocaine, and return to Connecticut. Law enforcement officials in Bridgeport report that cocaine transporters use rental cars more frequently than commuter trains when transporting cocaine from New York City. In October 2001 law enforcement officials in Norwalk seized 260 pounds of powdered cocaine from the trunk of a disabled limousine with a New York license plate.
Package delivery services and couriers aboard commercial airline flights also are used to transport cocaine into Connecticut. Couriers sometimes transport multikilogram shipments of cocaine from Puerto Rico directly to Bradley International Airport for distribution in Hartford and for transshipment to Springfield, Massachusetts, and New York City. Cocaine also has been seized from couriers' shoes, from small balloons or latex packages that had been swallowed by bodycarriers, and from packages transported via package delivery services. Liquid cocaine has been seized from bottles labeled as Jamaican rum that were being transported on commercial airline flights from Jamaica.
Some cocaine is smuggled into Connecticut aboard commercial cargo vessels. Fruit shipments from Colombia to Connecticut are the most vulnerable to cocaine smuggling. In 1999 the U.S. Customs Service (USCS) in Bridgeport seized 2 pounds of cocaine from two security officers aboard a vessel owned by a Colombian company that offloads 4,000 pounds of Colombian bananas at Bridgeport weekly. The threat of maritime smuggling is potentially greater than the threat posed by transportation via air because larger quantities of cocaine can be transported more easily by ship than by couriers, bodycarriers, or package delivery services.
Connecticut-based African American, Dominican, Jamaican, Puerto Rican, and other Hispanic criminal groups are the primary wholesale and midlevel distributors of cocaine in Connecticut. Typically, these criminal groups store large quantities of cocaine in private residences. Before distribution they cut the cocaine with other substances, increasing the quantity and decreasing the purity. These criminal groups then package the cocaine for retail distribution in Connecticut.
African American, Jamaican, Puerto Rican, Dominican, and other Hispanic street gangs, local crews, and local independent dealers distribute powdered and crack cocaine in Connecticut at the retail level. According to responses to the NDIC Gang Survey 2000, African American street gangs such as Brotherhood, Ghetto Brothers, Island Brothers, Nation, Niggers for Life (NFL), and 20 Luv control most of the retail distribution of crack in southeastern Connecticut and New Haven and also distribute crack in Hartford. Some federal law enforcement officials have reported that Mexican criminal groups also distribute retail quantities of cocaine in the state.
Most of the cocaine available in Connecticut is sold from private cars and residences or in bars, clubs, or stores that provide a front for drug distribution and money laundering. Distributors often live in one residence, store drugs in a second residence or stash house, and distribute from a third residence. Some distributors use the residences of family members as stash houses. Small quantities of cocaine are sold at a limited number of open-air markets in the state.
Kilogram quantities of powdered cocaine, referred to as bricks because of their shape, are typically wrapped in duct tape and labeled with logos. Some markings in Connecticut include Carro Negro, Casa Azul, and Perro Café. Retail quantities of powdered cocaine usually are packaged in small, clear plastic bags. Crack usually is sold by the rock and packaged in the corner of a plastic bag, which is tied into a knot. State and local law enforcement officials report that many crack dealers attempt to conceal rocks of crack inside their mouths. Some dealers swallow the crack if law enforcement officials confront them.
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