U.S. Department of Justice
National Drug Intelligence Center
Atlanta HIDTA Drug Market Analysis 2010
Mexican DTOs use the Atlanta HIDTA region as the leading distribution center for powder cocaine, ice methamphetamine, commercial-grade marijuana, and Mexican heroin supplied in the region and many eastern U.S. drug markets. They supply these drugs to African American, Caucasian, and Hispanic (including Dominican) traffickers and to street gang members operating in the region as well as various traffickers operating in drug markets throughout the eastern United States. For example, the leaders of a cocaine distribution ring in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who were arrested in December 2009, traveled to Atlanta on a monthly basis to obtain 10 to 15 kilograms of cocaine from a Mexican source. The individuals would then return to Pittsburgh and distribute the cocaine through several retail-level distributors.
Various traffickers distribute illicit drugs at the midlevel and retail level in the Atlanta HIDTA region. African Americans, Caucasians, and Hispanics (including Dominicans) are the principal midlevel and retail-level distributors in the region. African American traffickers distribute powder cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana, MDMA, and heroin. Caucasian traffickers typically distribute methamphetamine, marijuana, CPDs, MDMA, and heroin at the retail level. Hispanic traffickers distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, and heroin. Retail-level drug distribution typically occurs from private residences, hotels, or at prearranged meetings in parking lots. In Atlanta, heroin distribution had historically been confined to a section of the city known as the Bluff.h Within the past year, however, heroin has been increasingly distributed from residences, apartments, and hotels in other parts of the city.
Street gangs distribute significant amounts of cocaine and marijuana at the retail level in urban areas of the region, particularly southeast Atlanta. African American and Hispanic street gangs often generate revenue through multiple illegal activities, including drug trafficking. Most African American street gangs, such as 30 Deep and GMC (Get More Cash), are loosely organized, unaffiliated neighborhood gangs. The 30 Deep street gang is an African American gang concentrated in southeast Atlanta. Gang members frequently rob electronics and high-end clothing stores, then sell the stolen items and use that money to purchase drugs, which they sell at a profit. Hispanic street gangs, such as Sureņos and Mara Salvatrucha (MS 13), are highly organized and maintain national and international affiliations. Street gang members typically distribute drugs from vehicles in parking lots and private residences.
Atlanta HIDTA counties in Georgia have the potential to become source areas for CPDs diverted for distribution in the Southeast. They are mainly supplied from the growing number of pain management clinics in the state. These pain management clinics are not associated with hospitals or drug treatment centers, do not accept insurance, and operate on a cash-only basis. Abusers from the region and surrounding states, who previously obtained CPDs from pain management clinics in Florida, are now obtaining these drugs from clinics in Atlanta HIDTA counties in Georgia.i For example, in March 2010, a pain management clinic, owned by businessmen from South Florida, opened in Kennesaw, Cobb County. The clinic quickly drew clientele from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio, and within days, provided so many OxyContin prescriptions that local pharmacy workers complained to local law enforcement. The clinic was shut down within weeks of opening after a federal investigation in Florida into the owners' business practices. Nonetheless, signs promoting other pain management clinics are appearing in Cherokee and Clayton Counties, Georgia.
Pending Prescription Drug Legislation in Georgia
On April 29, 2010, the Georgia General Assembly passed Senate Bill 418 to establish a PDMP in Georgia. Georgia is the only state in the Southeast that does not have a PDMP, leaving the state vulnerable to the diversion of CPDs. The bill, if signed into law, would establish an electronic database of Schedule II, III, IV, and V substances that would be administered by the State Board of Pharmacy in consultation with members of the Georgia Composite Board. The bill does not provide funding for the PDMP, but authorizes the State Board of Pharmacy to apply for grants to fund the program. If signed by the governor, the bill will take effect on July 1, 2010.
Source: Georgia General Assembly.
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Drug-related violent crimes and property crimes often occur within the Atlanta HIDTA region as distributors protect and expand their operations and abusers seek funds to sustain their addictions. Rivalries among street gang members also contribute to violent crime in the region. In March 2010, a grand jury indicted 26 alleged members of MS 13 on 29 counts of racketeering, murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, and robbery. Specifically, 16 of the alleged gang members indicted are accused of killing four rival gang members, two robbery victims, and one fellow gang member. Moreover, according to NDTS 2010 data, 30 of the 61 law enforcement agency respondents in the region identify crack cocaine as the drug that most contributes to violent crime, and 33 identify the same for property crime.
Criminal groups that impersonate law enforcement personnel while committing robberies are a serious problem in the Atlanta HIDTA region. African American, Caucasian, or Hispanic drug traffickers form "robbing crews" that target rival traffickers to steal their drugs or drug proceeds. Once crew members gain entry to a residence or stash house by impersonating police officers, they typically tie up their victims, steal the drugs and money, and take the victims' cell phones and vehicles so that the victims cannot immediately notify genuine law enforcement officials or others in their organization.
h. The Bluff is a small open-air drug market north of the Georgia Dome, which has been Atlanta's primary heroin market.
i. In July 2009, Florida enacted a law establishing a PDMP. The law requires that pain management clinics register with the Department of Health and that state medical and osteopathic medicine boards set standards of practice for all physicians and osteopaths who prescribe controlled
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