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National Drug Intelligence Center
District of Columbia Drug Threat Assessment Update
Heroin poses a serious drug threat to the District. In particular, the availability of low cost, high purity South American heroin is cause for concern. Young people, who often are reluctant to administer drugs via injection, are abusing high purity heroin--which can be effectively snorted or smoked--at an increasing rate. In addition, the availability of high purity heroin can result in increased overdoses. According to TEDS data, heroin-related admissions to publicly funded treatment facilities in D.C. increased 3 percent from 2,121 in 2000 to 2,181 in 2001; there were more admissions for heroin abuse in 2001 than for any other illicit drug. DAWN data indicate that there were 1,946 heroin ED mentions in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area in 2000 and 1,888 in 2001. Preliminary estimates indicate that there were 591 heroin ED mentions from January through June 2002. In 2001 the rate of heroin ED mentions per 100,000 population in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area (45) was higher than the rate nationwide (37). (See Table 1 in Cocaine section.) In addition, DAWN mortality data indicate that in 2001 heroin/morphine was a factor in 15 deaths in Washington, D.C.--a decrease from 36 in 2000.
Heroin from all major source areas--South America, Southeast Asia, Southwest Asia, and Mexico--is available in D.C.; however, South American heroin is the type most readily available. According to DEA's Domestic Monitor Program (DMP), the majority of heroin purchased in D.C. through the DMP in which a signature could be determined was of South American origin and 42 percent was of Southwest Asian origin. DMP data indicate that heroin averaged 23.8 percent pure in D.C.--South American heroin ranged from 4.3 to 87.1 percent pure.
Seizures and sentencing data indicate the ready availability of heroin in the District. According to FDSS data, federal law enforcement officials in D.C. seized 10.2 kilograms of heroin in 2002. The Metropolitan Police Department reported seizing 18.5 kilograms of heroin in 2002. Further, the percentage of drug-related federal sentences that were heroin-related in D.C. in FY2001 (19.2%) was significantly higher than the national percentage (7.2%), according to USSC data. (See Table 2 in Cocaine section.)
Heroin prices in the District were relatively stable over the past year. In D.C. heroin sold for $80,000 per kilogram, $78 to $150 per gram, and $10 to $20 per bag in the fourth quarter of FY2002, according to the DEA Washington Division.
Colombian and Dominican criminal groups are the primary transporters of South American heroin into D.C. These groups primarily transport the drug via commercial and private vehicles from New York City, although some South American heroin also is transported from Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami, and Los Angeles, among other locations. Nigerian criminal groups are the primary transporters of Southeast Asian heroin, and Nigerian and Pakistani criminal groups are the primary transporters of Southwest Asian heroin into D.C. These criminal groups usually transport heroin from domestic locations into D.C. using couriers aboard buses, trains, and commercial aircraft as well as via package delivery services. Mexican brown powdered and black tar heroin are available in limited quantities and typically are transported and distributed by Mexican criminal groups.
Colombian and Dominican criminal groups are the dominant wholesale-level distributors of South American heroin in the District. Nigerian and other West African criminal groups are the dominant wholesale-level distributors of Southeast Asian heroin. Nigerian and Pakistani criminal groups are the primary wholesale distributors of Southwest Asian heroin in D.C.
African American and Hispanic crews as well as local independent dealers of various ethnic backgrounds are the dominant retail-level distributors of South American, Southwest Asian, and Southeast Asian heroin. Mexican criminal groups distribute brown powdered and black tar heroin at the retail level. Heroin is sold primarily at open-air drug markets or in low-income housing developments as well as along main corridors into and out of the city. Heroin most often is sold in small plastic bags that are stamped with logos.
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