National Drug Intelligence
Mexican DTOs operate wholesale drug distribution networks that extend from Mexico, through the HIDTA region, to drug markets across the United States. Once Mexican DTOs have smuggled cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine shipments into the Arizona HIDTA region, they often store the drugs in stash houses in communities throughout the region, particularly in the Phoenix and Tucson areas. The drugs, after arrival at the stash location, are typically consolidated into larger shipments for further transport to drug market areas throughout the United States or are divided into smaller quantities for distribution within the region. Additionally, drug distributors from throughout the United States often travel to stash sites in the Arizona HIDTA region to obtain illicit drugs for distribution in their home markets, such as in the New England, Mid-Atlantic, and Southeastern regions as well as the Pacific and Great Lakes regions.
Mexican DTOs supply wholesale quantities of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine, primarily to Mexican, Jamaican, and Caucasian criminal groups as well as prison gangs, street gangs, and OMGs. These groups supply midlevel quantities of illicit drugs to retail distributors--predominantly smaller street gangs and independent dealers in the HIDTA region. Hispanic and African American street gangs dominate retail-level distribution of illicit drugs throughout the Arizona HIDTA region.
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Mexican DTOs that operate in Mexico and Arizona often use violence, corruption, and intimidation to maintain their cross-border smuggling routes. According to law enforcement officials, drug-related violence has increased over the past year along the border. Escalating drug-related violence in the Arizona HIDTA region is most likely a result of the retaliation by Mexican DTOs against U.S. law enforcement personnel participating in heightened counterdrug operations. Within the past year, U.S. law enforcement personnel at the border have experienced assaults by "rocking," gunfire, Molotov cocktails, vehicular assaults, and physical assaults. Violence directed at law enforcement officers along the border is often intended to deter agents from seizing illicit drug shipments or is used as a diversion to smuggle drug shipments.
Violent conflicts between Mexican DTOs and alien smuggling organizations are also emerging along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona. Law enforcement investigation of not only drug trafficking operations but also alien smuggling operations increases the risk of apprehension for drug traffickers, the seizure of drug shipments, and the discovery of drug smuggling routes. As such, drug traffickers are increasingly engaging in violent confrontations--including kidnapping, murder, and theft--with alien smugglers in order to deter them from using established smuggling routes, potentially exposing them to law enforcement scrutiny. In response, as a means of protection alien smugglers, as well as the individuals they are escorting, are carrying weapons to a greater extent.
Compounding the problems posed to the region by drug-related violence, criminals commonly referred to as border bandits, or bajadores, conduct armed assaults of both drug and alien smugglers. They typically identify the location of an intended smuggling operation from informants and attack those running the operation in order to steal whatever "load" is being smuggled by the organization--whether currency, drugs, or illegal aliens. A smuggling organization that loses illegal contraband, such as illicit drugs or groups of individuals being smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border, to bajadores usually attempts revenge, occasionally through execution-style homicides. Most bajadores are low-level drug traffickers; however, some reportedly work for high-level Mexican DTOs.
Identity theft is a significant concern to law enforcement officers and community leaders throughout the region. Methamphetamine abusers regularly commit identity theft to acquire funds to pay for the drug. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Arizona ranked first in the number of identity theft victims per 100,000 residents in 2007, the latest year for which such data are available.
Mexican DTOs frequently obtain firearms from Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) at U.S. gun shows or pawnshops. They often employ individuals to make purchases for them to insulate themselves from the transaction. DTOs also obtain weapons at gun shows from private individuals, who are legally permitted to sell personal weapons collections without a license and do not need to conduct criminal record checks or file paperwork to document the transaction, and by way of thefts from private residences and gun stores.
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