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Chicago High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Drug Market Analysis
May 2007

Strategic Drug Threat Developments

  • Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) and criminal groups dominate the transportation and wholesale distribution of illicit drugs in the Chicago HIDTA region. These organizations operate as national-level distributors of illicit drugs, particularly to midwestern and eastern drug markets.
  • African American and Hispanic street gangs such as Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords, and Latin Kings dominate the retail distribution of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana in the HIDTA region. These street gangs are prevalent in urban areas and are becoming more active in suburban Chicago communities.
  • Some street gang members have relocated their residences to suburban communities but still maintain control of drug markets in the city of Chicago, where most illicit drug sales occur. Increasingly, gang members distribute drugs inside residences or commercial properties, regularly changing sales locations in response to the Chicago Police Department's effective street corner initiatives that target open-air drug markets. The frequent relocation of indoor markets makes them inherently more difficult for law enforcement to penetrate than traditional open-air markets.
  • The ready availability and widespread abuse of illicit drugs in the Chicago HIDTA region contribute to the area's violent crime rate; drug distributors and abusers commit a host of violent crimes, including homicide, kidnapping, assault, and intimidation.
  • The Chicago HIDTA region is a distribution center for clandestinely produced fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is more potent than heroin. Fentanyl is sold alone or in combination with heroin; it is marketed in Chicago and is also distributed in other areas that receive heroin supplies from Chicago, particularly Michigan. Fentanyl and heroin/fentanyl combinations have been associated with hundreds of overdoses and deaths in the Chicago HIDTA region and in Michigan.

Drug Trafficking Organizations, Criminal Groups, and Gangs

Drug trafficking organizations are complex organizations with highly defined command-and-control structures that produce, transport, and/or 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.


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