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Arizona High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Drug Market Analysis
May 2007


Mexican DTOs quite likely will expand their illicit drug smuggling activities from Mexico into Arizona, using established smuggling routes directly through Nogales, Douglas, San Luis, and other Arizona POEs; they also will increasingly smuggle wholesale quantities of illicit drugs, particularly marijuana, through remote areas between POEs. Their dominance will remain unchallenged in the foreseeable future, primarily because of the proximity of Mexico to Arizona and because Mexican DTOs have well-established distribution networks and transportation infrastructures.

Drug traffickers will increasingly exploit the remote and rugged terrain adjoining the Arizona-Mexico border, which includes the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, and Coronado National Forest. As a result, they will escalate the already high threat of violence against law enforcement personnel and innocent civilians, particularly because these smugglers are often and increasingly armed, sometimes with automatic weapons. Nonetheless, the allocation of additional Border Patrol agents and National Guard troops along the Arizona-Mexico border as part of Operation Jump Start has resulted in a greater number of Border Patrol agents participating in enforcement operations in the field. Their increased presence very likely will curtail some of this violence and contribute to further increases in the total quantities of illicit drugs seized in the near term. In addition, drug traffickers, particularly those who conduct drive-throughs, will continue to destroy Saguaro cactuses and other vegetation that attracts tourists from all over the world. This destruction could have a negative effect on tourism in the area.

Mexican traffickers will increasingly adapt their smuggling methods and techniques in reaction to increased law enforcement efforts along the Arizona-Mexico border. Mexican traffickers who once smuggled wholesale quantities of finished methamphetamine through the Nogales POE will increasingly smuggle partially finished quantities of the drug through Nogales and other POEs. Because more elaborate concealment methods are often used to smuggle partially finished methamphetamine, including the smuggling of unfinished liquid methamphetamine in the gas tanks of private vehicles, detection by law enforcement will become increasingly difficult. Once in Arizona, smugglers or those working with them most likely will complete the methamphetamine production process so that the drug can be distributed in the Arizona HIDTA region and markets throughout the nation.

Mexican traffickers most likely will expand their alliances with illegal alien smuggling groups by requiring illicit drug smuggling in exchange for the safe passage of these individuals into the United States. If these relationships flourish, the number of illegal aliens attempting to enter the United States from special-interest countries may increase.

It is highly unlikely that the current decrease in methamphetamine availability in the Arizona HIDTA region is permanent, particularly since Mexican traffickers, many of whom operate in Arizona, are the principal methamphetamine suppliers throughout the United States. These traffickers will quite likely respond to successful U.S. and Mexican law enforcement efforts that temporarily reduced methamphetamine availability by adapting their trafficking techniques to maneuver around law enforcement; this will very likely rejuvenate their methamphetamine supplies. However, in the meantime, they will most likely make up for lost methamphetamine profits through increases in the amount of other illicit drugs that they smuggle across the border, primarily marijuana.

Identity theft most likely will remain a significant problem in Arizona, particularly in the Phoenix-Scottsdale-Mesa area. However, recently enacted legislation that enhances penalties associated with the crime will quite likely reduce the rate of identity theft in the near term.

Mexican DTOs will send an increasing number of bulk currency loads directly into Mexico to avert law enforcement attention from wire transfers into Arizona in the near term.

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