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Production

Cannabis cultivation at indoor and outdoor sites is the principal illicit drug production issue in the Chicago HIDTA region. Indoor cannabis cultivation is conducted primarily by independent dealers, who use elaborate lighting and ventilation at sites that typically yield 20 to 200 plants. In addition, outdoor cannabis grow sites on public lands and farmlands in the region are periodically seized. For example, in August 2009, law enforcement dismantled a grow operation in a Cook County Forest Preserve consisting of approximately 7,000 cannabis plants.

Methamphetamine typically is not produced in the region. In fact, according to National Seizure System (NSS) data, no methamphetamine laboratories were seized in the region in 2008 or 2009.

 

Transportation

Chicago is a major national transportation hub and distribution center that is routinely exploited by traffickers to transport wholesale quantities of illicit drugs into the region from locations along the Southwest Border, the West Coast, and Canada, using a variety of modes and methods. Analysis of national seizure data identifying the destination of drug shipments shows that the Chicago area ranks first or second as the most common destination for three of the four major drugs of abuse and the fifth most common destination for methamphetamine, despite very low levels of distribution and abuse in the Chicago HIDTA region. (See Table 1.)

Table 1. Metropolitan Areas Most Often Identified as Origination and Destination Points for Seized Drug Shipments, 2008-2009*

  Cannabis Cocaine Heroin Methamphetamine
Origination McAllen
Phoenix
Tucson
Rio Grande City
Laredo
McAllen
Los Angeles
Phoenix
Houston
Laredo
Denver
Phoenix
Miami
Chicago
Orlando
Phoenix
Los Angeles
McAllen
San Bernardino
Seattle
Destination Houston
Chicago
Atlanta
Tucson
Detroit
Atlanta
Chicago
New York
Miami
Houston
Chicago
New York
Miami
Newark
Tacoma
Atlanta
Sacramento
Las Vegas
Denver
Chicago

Source: National Seizure System.
*Data for 2009 as of June 30, 2009.

Traffickers typically transport illicit drugs in private and commercial vehicles, often commingling the drugs with legitimate freight and increasingly concealing them in elaborate hidden compartments. Law enforcement officials in the region report that traffickers are transporting smaller loads of illicit drugs to minimize loss from potential law enforcement interdiction. Mexican DTOs generally store drugs 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. Caucasian traffickers from the region increasingly transport high-potency marijuana from California and Washington to the region in private vehicles. Albanian, Caucasian, Chinese, and Vietnamese traffickers also use commercial and private vehicles to transport significant quantities of MDMA and high-potency marijuana from Canada into the region.

Colombian as well as Nigerian and other West African DTOs and criminal groups use major international airports to transport illicit drugs, particularly heroin, into the Chicago HIDTA region. Colombian traffickers sometimes employ couriers to smuggle small quantities of SA heroin by commercial air into the region. Nigerian and other West African DTOs use couriers on commercial aircraft to transport small quantities of SWA heroin from Europe and Canada to Chicago. Couriers transporting illicit drugs on commercial airlines typically conceal the drugs by stashing them in their clothing or inside false compartments in their luggage, or by swallowing them.

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. Officials report that seizures of parcel delivery packages containing high-potency marijuana from California have increased in Chicago. The Package Interdiction Initiative 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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