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National Drug Intelligence Center
Connecticut Drug Threat Assessment
Heroin is the second most significant drug threat to Connecticut. Heroin, particularly South American, is frequently abused in the state; in 1999 Connecticut ranked first in the nation for the rate of heroin-related treatment admissions per 100,000 population. Heroin's increasing popularity, particularly among teenagers and young adults, is due primarily to the increased availability of low cost, high purity heroin that can effectively be snorted or smoked rather than injected. Connecticut-based African American, Dominican, Puerto Rican, and other Hispanic criminal groups are the dominant transporters and wholesale and midlevel distributors of heroin in the state. They usually travel in private vehicles on interstate highways, particularly I-95, to purchase wholesale quantities of heroin from New York City-based Colombian and Dominican criminal groups. These wholesale and midlevel distributors typically sell heroin to retail distributors, primarily Connecticut-based street gangs, crews, and other African American, Dominican, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and other Hispanic criminal groups.
Treatment data indicate that heroin is commonly abused in Connecticut, particularly in the Statewide Narcotics Task Force Southwest and South Central Districts and the Hartford area. (See Figure 1 in Overview section.) According to TEDS data, heroin-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities increased 66 percent from 10,124 in 1994 to 16,822 in 1998, then decreased slightly to 16,380 in 1999. (See Table 1 in Overview section.) Connecticut ranked first in the nation in 1999 for the number of heroin-related treatment admissions per 100,000 population. State treatment officials report that Connecticut has had more treatment admissions for heroin abuse than for any other illicit drug. Thirty-three percent (17,373) of the 53,427 treatment admissions reported by the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction services in FY2000 were heroin-related. Caucasians accounted for 49 percent of heroin-related treatment admissions; 33 percent were Hispanic, and 16 percent were African American. In addition, over 35 percent of all heroin-related treatment admissions in FY2001 were in the Southwest and South Central Districts of the state including Bridgeport and New Haven. Hartford had more heroin-related treatment admissions (3,889) than any other city in Connecticut that year.
Low cost, high purity heroin has attracted a new abuser population in Connecticut--teenagers and young adults--and has contributed to increased health problems and deaths. High purity heroin can effectively be smoked or snorted, attracting new abusers seeking to avoid the social stigma and health risks associated with injection. Despite the popularity of snorting, injection is the preferred method of heroin administration for abusers who develop a tolerance and attempt to achieve a more intense high, according to the Connecticut Alcohol and Drug Policy Council. According to the Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, heroin was a factor in the deaths of 15 individuals in 1997, 23 in 1998, 17 in 1999, and 36 in 2000. Caucasian males accounted for almost two-thirds (23) of the deaths in which heroin was a factor in 2000.
High school students in Connecticut abuse heroin to a limited extent. According to the 1999 Connecticut Substance Abuse Prevention Survey, 2.2 percent of eleventh and twelfth graders surveyed reported having abused heroin at least once in their lifetime. Less than 1 percent of Connecticut students in eleventh and twelfth grades surveyed reported having abused heroin at least once in the month prior to the survey.
Heroin, particularly South American, is readily available in Connecticut. According to DEA, Southeast Asian and Southwest Asian heroin are also available, to a lesser extent. Mexican black tar heroin is only available occasionally.
According to the Statewide Narcotics Task Force, heroin prices have remained stable in the state for the past several years--an indicator of the drug's continued availability. According to DEA, in the first quarter of FY2002, heroin sold for $57,000 to $125,000 per kilogram, $1,300 to $4,000 per ounce, and $110 to $125 per gram throughout the state. Heroin is also sold in bricks--100 glassine bags--which in 2000 sold for $1,000 to $1,500 in the rural Northwest District, where prices tend to be slightly higher. It is harder for drug distributors in the state's rural areas to avoid law enforcement detection.
High purity heroin is readily available in Connecticut. According to DEA's System to Retrieve Information from Drug Evidence (STRIDE), the purity of a gram of heroin averaged 60.7 percent in Connecticut in 2000 compared with 55.7 percent average purity nationwide. DEA reports that the purity of heroin available in Connecticut ranges from 30 percent to 95 percent.
The quantity of heroin seized by federal law enforcement officials in Connecticut increased steadily from FY1997 to FY1999, then decreased in FY2000. According to FDSS data, federal law enforcement officials in Connecticut seized 200 grams of heroin in FY1997, 400 grams in FY1998, 1,300 grams in FY1999, and 500 grams in FY2000. In Connecticut DEA seized 59 grams of heroin in FY1997, 848 grams in FY1998, 854 grams in FY1999, and 8,450 grams in FY2000; not all of these seizures were reported to FDSS. Most DEA seizures occurred in Bridgeport.
The quantity of heroin seized by state law enforcement officials in Connecticut, especially in the Southwest and South Central Districts, decreased from FY1996 to FY1997, then steadily increased between FY1997 and FY2000. The amount of heroin seized by the Statewide Narcotics Task Force increased from 2.48 kilograms in FY1999 to 7.22 kilograms in FY2000. In FY2000 the amount of heroin seized in the Southwest District (3.34 kilograms) was larger than in any other district in the state. Seizures in the Southwest District typically are higher because of its proximity to New York City, a primary distribution center.
The percentage of federal drug sentences that were heroin-related in Connecticut was more than twice the national percentage in FY2000. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, 15.9 percent of drug-related federal sentences in Connecticut in FY2000 were heroin-related compared with 7.7 percent nationwide.
Connecticut has had a significant number of heroin-related OCDETF investigations. Seven of the 14 OCDETF investigations initiated in Connecticut from October 1999 to October 2001 were heroin-related. OCDETF investigations often involve more than one illegal drug.
Heroin abusers who commit crimes in Connecticut generally commit nonviolent property crimes to support their addiction. However, some heroin distributors at all levels commit violent crimes to protect their turf and expand drug distribution operations. In response to the NDIC National Gang Survey 2000, the Hartford, New Haven, and New London Police Departments reported that the Latin Kings, Los Solidos, and Ņeta street gangs distribute heroin and commit violent crimes. The Hartford Police Department reported that roughly 60 percent of all crime in its area is attributed to street gangs. Many criminal groups that distribute crack cocaine in Connecticut and commit violent crimes also distribute heroin.
Federal law enforcement officials report that criminal groups that distribute heroin often carry weapons, occasionally AK-47 and AR-17 assault rifles. In the fall of 1999 the Statewide Narcotics Task Force in eastern Connecticut arrested a drug distributor and seized 1,082 bags of heroin, one-half ounce of crack cocaine, one-half ounce of powdered cocaine, and two handguns.
Opium poppies are not cultivated nor is heroin refined in Connecticut. Heroin is produced in four source regions: Mexico, South America, Southeast Asia, and Southwest Asia. South American heroin is the primary type of heroin available in Connecticut. According to DEA, small amounts of Southeast Asian and Southwest Asian heroin also are available. Mexican black tar heroin seizures are rare in Connecticut, according to federal law enforcement seizure statistics.
In general, heroin is milled before being distributed in Connecticut. The heroin is packaged in glassine bags and stamped with a brand name or logo. According to the Statewide Narcotics Task Force East District Office, Connecticut-based distributors increasingly purchase heroin in bulk and employ "chemists" to prepare the heroin for retail distribution. A chemist in the South Central District reportedly cut heroin with PCP (phencyclidine) in November 1999. In October 2001 the Connecticut State Police and the Hartford Police Department arrested a 26-year-old male who was repackaging heroin. The law enforcement officers seized 2,000 glassine bags of heroin stamped with the brand names Hippomania and Miracle, two heat-sealing machines, and coffee grinders used to cut the heroin. The officers also seized enough uncut, unpackaged heroin to fill 34,000 additional bags.
Connecticut-based African American, Dominican, Puerto Rican, and other Hispanic criminal groups are the dominant transporters of heroin into Connecticut. They usually travel to New York City on interstate highways, particularly I-95, in private vehicles to purchase wholesale quantities of heroin. The groups travel to the Jackson Heights section of Queens to purchase kilogram quantities of heroin from Colombian criminal groups. They also travel to the Washington Heights section of northern Manhattan to purchase kilogram quantities of heroin from Dominican criminal groups. The vehicles used to transport the drug are often equipped with hidden, hydraulically operated compartments to conceal the heroin. Criminal groups typically transport a few bundles of heroin at a time to avoid seizure of large shipments.
To a lesser extent than highway transportation, heroin is transported into Connecticut by couriers on commuter trains from New York City and other areas. The DEA Bridgeport Resident Office reports that criminal groups occasionally transport kilogram quantities of South American heroin to African American distributors residing in public housing in Bridgeport.
Heroin also is shipped through JFK and Logan International Airports en route to Connecticut via package delivery services. In January 1999 USCS officials at JFK International Airport seized a package containing 793 grams of heroin concealed in cans labeled as pet powder. The package was shipped from Thailand to an employee at a Bridgeport company.
Heroin usually is stored in private residences before being repackaged into retail quantities and transported to other areas of Connecticut. Law enforcement officials report that Bridgeport is a transshipment point for heroin destined for Hartford, New Haven, Waterbury, and other areas. The DEA Hartford Resident Office reports that Hartford serves as a secondary transshipment point for heroin destined for other New England states.
Heroin that is destined for other locations is also transported through Connecticut from source areas such as Colombia and Thailand via package delivery services or by couriers on commercial airline flights. Some of the heroin smuggled directly from source countries into Connecticut is destined for New York City and other locations outside Connecticut. In 2000 the DEA Bridgeport Resident Office arrested members of a Jamaican criminal group that smuggled heroin and cocaine into the United States using couriers who traveled on commercial airline flights. In December 1999 the Statewide Narcotics Task Force and USCS seized 6 pounds of high purity heroin hidden inside a computer monitor that had been shipped from Colombia to Norwalk using a package delivery service. The recipient, a native Colombian female, intended to transport the package to Queens.
Connecticut-based African American, Dominican, Puerto Rican, and other Hispanic criminal groups are the primary wholesale and midlevel distributors of heroin in Connecticut. They typically purchase wholesale quantities of heroin from Colombian criminal groups in the Jackson Heights section of Queens and from Dominican criminal groups in the Washington Heights section of northern Manhattan.
Midlevel distributors sell heroin to Connecticut-based street gangs and African American, Dominican, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and other Hispanic criminal groups--the dominant retail distributors--as well as to local crews and independent dealers. Various street gangs such as Latin Kings, Los Solidos, Ņeta, and 20 Luv distribute heroin at the retail level in the state. New Haven law enforcement officials report that Hispanic street gangs dominate heroin distribution in their jurisdiction.
Most of the heroin distributed in Connecticut is milled and then packaged in glassine bags or colored, heat-sealed bags for street level distribution. Bags typically are marked with a brand name. The most common brand available in the Hartford area in 2001 was Stronger, which was a factor in at least one overdose death. In 2001 various other brands were available in Hartford including Black Powder, Crazy Bull, Danger, Eternity, Gunfire, Poison, Polo, Say No, and Scorpion. Popular brands in the New Haven area included 666, D-86, and Scorpion. At least one criminal group has stopped stamping glassine bags of heroin in order to avoid detection by law enforcement officials. Compressed, cylinder-shaped latex or bullet-shaped wax--referred to as eggs--contain about 10 grams of heroin and also are available in wholesale quantities in Connecticut.
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