National Drug Intelligence
Two major drug market areas exist in the Arizona HIDTA region, the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas; both serve as transshipment centers for cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine smuggled into the United States from Mexico and are the most noteworthy areas of illicit drug trafficking and abuse in the HIDTA region.
Phoenix, the state capital and county seat of Maricopa County, is a regional and national-level transportation and distribution center for methamphetamine and marijuana and a regional distribution center for cocaine and MBT. The area's well-developed highway system facilitates the shipment of illicit drugs from Mexico to Phoenix for local distribution and transshipment to drug markets throughout the country, including Atlanta, Georgia; Columbia, South Carolina; Columbus, Ohio; Denver, Colorado; Las Vegas, Nevada; Nashville, Tennessee; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Limited drug production occurs in the Phoenix metropolitan area; small powder methamphetamine laboratories and cannabis cultivation sites are occasionally seized by law enforcement and the number of seized methamphetamine laboratories has been decreasing each year since 2002 (see Table 5). Most laboratories seized were capable of producing less than 1 pound of low-quality methamphetamine per production cycle; the methamphetamine produced at these laboratories was intended for personal use or very limited, local distribution, according to law enforcement officials.
Table 5. Methamphetamine Laboratories Seized in the Phoenix Drug Market Area, 2002-2008*
|Under 2 ounces||68||24||15||10||6||3||1|
|9 ounces-1 pound||7||4||4||5||0||0||0|
Source: El Paso Intelligence Center National Seizure System.
* Data as of May 15, 2008.
Personal-use amounts of marijuana are produced by independent cannabis growers and marijuana dealers at a limited number of outdoor and indoor cannabis grow sites throughout the Phoenix area. According to DCE/SP data, approximately 33,381 outdoor cannabis plants and 1,449 indoor cannabis plants were seized and eradicated by law enforcement officials in Arizona during 2007.
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Mexican DTOs and other traffickers operating in the Phoenix metropolitan area primarily transport drugs into Phoenix using private and commercial vehicles such as cars, trucks, and tractor-trailers on heavily traveled roadways, such as I-10 and I-40. However, Mexican DTOs are increasingly using alternate routes and less traveled roads in an attempt to avoid law enforcement patrols. Moreover, Mexican traffickers smuggling wholesale quantities of marijuana from Sonora into the Arizona HIDTA region through the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation (see Figure 3) typically transport illicit drugs north on US 93 to Phoenix for distribution; they also further transport the drugs to Las Vegas, Nevada, and other market areas throughout the country. (See Figure 2 in Transportation section.)
Figure 3. Federal and tribal lands in Arizona.
Mexican DTOs dominate wholesale drug distribution in and around Phoenix; they supply large quantities of methamphetamine, cocaine, MBT, and marijuana to various street gangs, prison gangs, OMGs, criminal groups, and local independent dealers for retail-level distribution in the Phoenix area. Mexican DTOs also store wholesale quantities of illicit drugs--particularly marijuana and methamphetamine--at stash locations10 in the Phoenix area until the drugs can be repackaged and transshipped to other drug markets.
Gangs in Phoenix, while predominantly involved in retail-level drug distribution, are also involved in wholesale and midlevel drug distribution, primarily marijuana distribution. According to GIITEM, Westside Brown Pride (WSBP) from Phoenix works in conjunction with East Side Torrance (EST) from Douglas, Arizona, to transport wholesale quantities of marijuana from the U.S.-Mexico border to WSBP in Phoenix. WSBP redistributes the marijuana to other gangs within the city. The prison-based gang Arizona New Mexican Mafia and the Tucson street gang Barrio Hollywood also distribute large quantities of marijuana in both Phoenix and Tucson. Various Bloods and Crips sets distribute up to hundred-pound quantities of marijuana throughout the Phoenix area.
Much of the violent and property crime in Phoenix is drug- and/or gang-related. According to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, Arizona New Mexican Mafia is being prosecuted for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) offenses and on several state homicide charges. Additionally, Phoenix Police Department officials indicted 43 members of the Westside City Crips on RICO charges in March 2008. Additionally, the Westside City Crips and other African American street gangs, such as Vista Bloods and Park South Crips, have been increasingly committing home invasions over the past year throughout the Phoenix area. Moreover, African American street gangs in Phoenix are increasingly engaging in intergang violence.
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Tucson is a regional and national-level distribution center for illicit drugs, particularly marijuana. Mexican DTOs exploit the area because of its proximity to Mexico; the city is located only 65 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border and is situated near the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation, the Coronado National Forest, and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument--vast tracts of remote land commonly used by Mexican DTOs to transport illicit drugs into and through Arizona. Tucson's proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border and its access to major interstates and secondary highways render it a key Southwest Border distribution center and stash location.
Drug production is minimal in the Tucson metropolitan area; however, law enforcement officials occasionally seize small-scale methamphetamine laboratories. In 2007, only one methamphetamine laboratory was seized in Pima County; it was capable of producing only personal-use quantities of low-quality methamphetamine. Additionally, independent dealers cultivate cannabis at indoor and outdoor grow sites in the Tucson area; only limited, personal-use quantities of marijuana are produced at such sites.
Tucson is a primary transshipment area for illicit drugs because of its proximity to Mexico and its extensive highway system, which connects to I-8 and I-10, major east-west interstates. Mexican DTOs transport large quantities of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and ice methamphetamine from Sonora into the city, often storing the drugs at stash sites. Most illicit drugs transported into Tucson are destined for distribution to markets throughout the nation; however, some are offloaded in Tucson for distribution in the city. Mexican traffickers also commonly use national parks, national monuments, and national forests as well as tribal lands located along the U.S.-Mexico border to smuggle illicit drugs into and through the Tucson area.
Mexican DTOs dominate wholesale drug distribution in and around Tucson; they supply large quantities of methamphetamine, cocaine, MBT, and marijuana to various street gangs, prison gangs, OMGs, criminal groups, and local independent dealers for retail-level distribution. Mexican DTOs also store wholesale quantities of illicit drugs--particularly marijuana and methamphetamine--at stash locations in the Tucson area pending distribution to markets outside the HIDTA region. They use stash houses to consolidate bulk cash shipments destined for Mexico.
Gangs in Tucson, while predominantly involved in retail-level drug distribution, are also involved in wholesale and midlevel drug distribution, primarily marijuana distribution. According to GIITEM, the largest street gang in Tucson, Barrio Hollywood, works with the Arizona New Mexican Mafia to transport large amounts of marijuana from the U.S.-Mexico border to Tucson and Phoenix for distribution in the cities.
Drug-related crime poses a considerable threat to Tucson; most is committed by street gangs involved in drug distribution within the city. For instance, the Arizona New Mexican Mafia "taxes" other street gangs that distribute illicit drugs in Tucson; if a street gang does not pay the "tax," violent retribution usually ensues. Additionally, African American street gangs, such as Bloods and Crips sets, are increasingly conducting home invasions in the Tucson area--home invasions were previously the domain of Hispanic street gangs. Moreover, street gangs in the area are engaging in a rising level of intergang rivalry, including violent offenses against each other.
10. Secured locations often include rented office space, warehouses, houses, and apartments.
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