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The Central Valley HIDTA region is a national- and regional-level distribution center for ice methamphetamine and marijuana produced in the region as well as ice methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine, and heroin smuggled from Mexico into the United States. Mexican DTOs are the primary wholesale distributors of drugs in the region, typically using stash sites located in private residences, warehouses, and storage facilities in cities and towns throughout the region. Mexican DTOs use the area as a base of operations for illicit drug distribution to markets throughout the United States. For example, Central Valley HIDTA officials estimate that approximately 85 percent of the methamphetamine produced in the region is transported from the Central Valley to other states, especially to major distribution areas such as Atlanta, Georgia, and Chicago, Illinois.

Street gangs, prison gangs, and OMGs operating in the HIDTA region distribute illicit drugs to their counterparts in cities located throughout the country to capitalize on the higher profits that can be made in those cities. Various traffickers in the area, including Asian DTOs, Caucasian criminal groups, and independent dealers, distribute marijuana produced in the Central Valley and Canadian high-potency marijuana to other areas of the country in order to meet demand for the drug.

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Drug-Related Crime

Ice methamphetamine trafficking and abuse are the leading contributors to violent crimes and property crimes in the Central Valley HIDTA region. In fact, 25 of the 28 state and local law enforcement officials responding to the NDTS 2010 report that methamphetamine is the drug that most contributes to violent crime in their jurisdictions; 26 respondents report the same for property crime. Law enforcement officials report that most incidents of assault, armed robbery, and homicide that occur in the region are perpetrated by members of DTOs, criminal groups, and street gangs in the course of their drug trafficking operations. Property crimes such as burglary, identity theft, and property theft are committed by methamphetamine abusers. In addition, a large portion of domestic violence and child neglect incidents are methamphetamine-related. For example, law enforcement officials report that children of methamphetamine abusers often live in unsanitary conditions and are sometimes exposed to the toxic chemicals used in the methamphetamine production process, resulting in long-term health problems. In 2009, the Fresno Methamphetamine Task Force placed 28 children into protective custody under their drug-endangered children program.

Violence associated with outdoor cannabis cultivation is also a significant threat in the region. HIDTA officials report that individuals at cannabis cultivation sites are often armed to protect their crops from law enforcement and rival growers. (See Figure 3.) Because cannabis crop tenders are often ready to defend these sites, these cultivation operations represent a threat to the safety of law enforcement officers and unwitting visitors, hunters, and hikers.

Figure 3. Armed Cannabis Growers in Fresno County

Photograph of men carrying rifles and pistols.

Source: Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

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