Drug Intelligence Center
Arizona High Intensity Drug Trafficking
Area Drug Market Analysis
- Mexican methamphetamine smuggling, transportation, and distribution
continue to be the primary drug threats to the Arizona HIDTA region,
despite successful precursor chemical control legislation, law enforcement
pressure, and public awareness campaigns that have contributed to
significant declines in local methamphetamine production and distribution
over the last several years.
- Several successful law enforcement interdictions, seizures,
and arrests since December 2006 on both sides of the Arizona-Mexico
border as well as legislation in Mexico pertaining to the importation
of pseudoephedrine into that country have contributed to temporary
methamphetamine shortages and dramatic price increases in Arizona
and other U.S. locations that are supplied by traffickers in Arizona,
including Las Vegas, Nevada.
- Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) and criminal groups
continue to smuggle illicit drugs, particularly marijuana, through
remote areas of public and tribal lands to avoid law enforcement
- The number and severity of assaults targeting law enforcement
personnel patrolling the Arizona-Mexico border have increased dramatically
over the past year; some Mexican DTOs have ordered drug traffickers
working for them or on their behalf to use violence to protect their
drug shipments from law enforcement interdiction.
- Mexican DTOs that smuggle illicit drugs across the Arizona-Mexico
border continue to work closely with Mexican criminal groups that
smuggle illegal aliens and U.S.-based gangs (street gangs, prison
gangs, and/or outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMGs)).
- High-level Mexican DTOs1
smuggle wholesale quantities of illicit drugs through existing subterranean
infrastructures, such as drainage tunnels and sewage and irrigation
systems, particularly in the Nogales area. They also continue to
smuggle illicit drugs through ports of entry (POEs) in vehicles
equipped with concealed compartments and in tractor-trailers with
legitimate cover loads.
- Several East Coast-based Jamaican DTOs operating in Arizona
have formed alliances with Mexican DTOs to purchase wholesale quantities
of marijuana for distribution in northeastern and southeastern drug
markets. Additionally, these Jamaican DTOs increasingly smuggle
wholesale quantities of marijuana north across the Arizona-Mexico
border for distribution in Arizona, particularly in the Phoenix
and Tucson areas.
- The amount of Mexican black tar heroin smuggled into the Arizona
HIDTA region from Mexico has increased dramatically, resulting in
increased heroin availability in areas previously reporting little
or no heroin availability. In addition, much of the heroin smuggled
into Arizona is transshipped to other U.S. locations, including
the Pacific Northwest and various areas east of the Mississippi
River, an action contributing to increased availability of the drug
- Methamphetamine abusers in Arizona are increasingly committing
identity theft to acquire funds to pay for the drug. The problem
is so significant that Arizona ranked first in the number of identity
theft victims per 100,000 residents in 2006; those victims are often
migrant illegal aliens seeking employment within the Phoenix area
as well as older citizens. Criminals who commit identity theft often
target migrant illegal aliens because they view those individuals
as more vulnerable because of language barriers or cultural differences;
they view older citizens as more trusting about sharing their personal
information with strangers.
Drug Trafficking Organizations, Criminal Groups, and Gangs
Drug trafficking organizations
are complex organizations with highly
defined command-and-control structures that produce,
transport, and distribute large quantities of one or
more illicit drugs.
Criminal groups operating in
the United States are numerous and range from small
to moderately sized, loosely knit groups that distribute
one or more drugs at the retail and midlevels.
Gangs are defined by the National
Alliance of Gang Investigators' Associations as groups
or associations of three or more persons with a common
identifying sign, symbol, or name, the members of which
individually or collectively engage in criminal activity
that creates an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.
The Arizona HIDTA region encompasses the western and southern counties
of Cochise, La Paz, Maricopa, Mohave, Pima, Pinal, Santa Cruz, and Yuma
and includes the entire Arizona-Mexico border. The HIDTA also includes
a number of federal lands controlled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA), U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of the Interior: National Park Service (NPS),
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian
Affairs (BIA), and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) relating to the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation, and
the Department of Defense. Relatively recent economic and population
growth in Arizona's two primary drug markets (Phoenix and Tucson), numerous
highways connecting major metropolitan areas in Arizona with major illicit
drug source areas in Mexico, and a remote, largely unprotected border
area between Arizona's POEs are the primary factors contributing to
the frequent and increasingly high levels of illicit drug smuggling
into and through the Arizona HIDTA as well as to the return of drug
proceeds to Mexico.
The Arizona HIDTA region is one of the most significant entry points
for marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and Mexican black tar heroin
distributed and abused in drug markets throughout the United States.
Over the past decade, increased law enforcement pressure along the Texas-Mexico
and California-Mexico borders has forced many highly organized and adaptable
Mexican DTOs to exploit the Arizona-Mexico border to smuggle illicit
drugs and illegal aliens into the United States and weapons back into
Mexico. As a result, the level of drug-related crime and violence has
also increased in the area. To counter this threat, officials have increased
law enforcement presence along the Arizona-Mexico border and have identified
and arrested members of major DTOs exploiting the border. Consequently,
some Mexican DTOs are resorting to violence against law enforcement
officers to facilitate the passage of their illicit cargo.
Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) are affiliated with large
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