National Drug Intelligence Center
Illicit drug production in the region is limited to crack cocaine conversion and indoor and outdoor cannabis grow operations. Methamphetamine typically is not produced in the region. According to National Seizure System (NSS) data, no methamphetamine laboratories were seized in the region in 2008.
Powder cocaine is routinely converted to crack cocaine by street gang members in the Chicago HIDTA region. Because of harsh federal criminal penalties associated with trafficking crack cocaine, street gangs and independent dealers typically convert powder cocaine to crack in the vicinity of the intended market to limit exposure to law enforcement operations.
Cannabis cultivation in the region takes place at indoor and outdoor grow sites. Indoor cannabis cultivation, primarily among independent dealers, is more prevalent than it had been in previous years. Outdoor cannabis grows in the region are periodically seized on public lands and on farmlands, typically among corn stalks.
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The Chicago HIDTA region's highly developed transportation infrastructure is routinely exploited by Mexican DTOs and criminal groups to transport wholesale quantities of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and ice methamphetamine into the region from locations along the Southwest Border. Mexican traffickers typically transport the drugs in private and commercial vehicles, often concealing them in elaborate hidden compartments or commingling them among legitimate freight goods. Mexican DTOs generally store cocaine, heroin, and marijuana in local stash houses for subsequent distribution in the region and for later transportation to other drug markets in the Midwest and the eastern United States. The ice methamphetamine Mexican DTOs transport to the region is usually further transported to midwestern drug markets because of the low demand for the drug in the HIDTA region. Law enforcement officials report that Caucasian traffickers from the region increasingly transport high-potency marijuana from California and Washington to the region in private vehicles. Chinese, Vietnamese, and Albanian traffickers also use commercial and private vehicles to transport significant quantities of MDMA and high-potency marijuana from Canada into the region.
Major international airports in the Chicago HIDTA region are often used by Colombian, Nigerian, and other West African DTOs and criminal groups to transport illicit drugs, particularly heroin, into the region. Colombian traffickers sometimes employ couriers to smuggle small quantities of SA heroin by commercial air into the region. They also smuggle SA heroin into New York and Miami on commercial flights; some of this heroin is further transported by Colombian couriers to Chicago in private vehicles. Nigerian and other West African DTOs use couriers on commercial aircraft to transport small quantities of SWA and SEA heroin from Europe and Canada to Chicago. Couriers transporting illicit drugs on commercial airlines typically conceal the drugs in their clothing, inside false compartments in their luggage, or by swallowing it.
Traffickers also use other methods to transport drugs into and throughout the region, including mail, package delivery services, and couriers on buses and trains. The Chicago HIDTA Package Interdiction Initiative regularly intercepts parcels containing various illicit drugs, particularly marijuana, from California, Texas, and Washington. It also seizes parcels containing cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine from Arizona, California, and Texas. Traffickers also use couriers on buses and trains to transport illicit drugs and bulk cash into, through, and from the Chicago HIDTA region. Nationwide bus and train companies have terminals in Chicago and offer transportation to other parts of the country, including the Southwest Border and neighboring drug markets. In addition, several bus companies offer direct connections between Chicago and Southwest Border cities with travel times of less than 24 hours.
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