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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 2008, only one methamphetamine laboratory was seized in Pima County; only personal use quantities of low-quality methamphetamine could be produced in it. 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. Other street gangs operating in the Tucson area are Midvale Park Bloods, Manzanita Lynch Mob Crips, Southside Posse/South Park/Western Hills Bloods, and Eastside and Eastside Mafia Crips.

Drug-Related Crime

Drug-related crime poses a considerable threat to Tucson; most is committed by street gangs involved in drug distribution within the city. For instance, 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.

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