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National Drug Intelligence Center
Florida Drug Threat Assessment
Cocaine, both powdered and crack, poses a serious threat to Florida. The drug is readily available, commonly abused, and its distribution and abuse are more often associated with violent crime than any other illicit drug in the state. Florida is the primary destination for cocaine smuggled from South America through the Caribbean and into the United States. South Florida and, to a lesser extent, Jacksonville and Tampa serve as regional transportation hubs and transshipment points for multikilogram to multihundred-kilogram quantities of cocaine generally destined for distribution in states east of the Mississippi River. Colombian DTOs and criminal groups control the transportation to the state; however, they usually rely on Bahamian, Cuban American, Dominican, Haitian, Jamaican, Puerto Rican and other Caribbean criminal groups to transport cocaine into Florida. Maritime vessels are the primary conveyances used to transport cocaine to Florida. Colombian DTOs and criminal groups are the primary wholesale distributors of powdered cocaine in Florida. The primary criminal groups and gangs that distribute wholesale quantities of crack cocaine in Florida vary by area and include Haitian and Jamaican criminal groups, African American and Hispanic gangs, and local independent Caucasian dealers. Various criminal groups, African American and Hispanic gangs, and Caucasian and African American local independent dealers are the dominant retail distributors of powdered and crack cocaine in Florida. Powdered cocaine often is packaged in plastic bags and distributed at open-air drug markets, private residences, some businesses and offices, parties, nightclubs, and raves or techno parties. Crack cocaine usually is sold as rocks and packaged in small plastic bags at open-air drug markets.
Cocaine, particularly crack, is commonly abused in Florida. Treatment admissions for cocaine abuse exceeded admissions for any other illicit drug from 1997 through 2000; however, in 2001 marijuana-related admissions surpassed cocaine-related admissions. According to TEDS data, the number of cocaine-related treatment admissions in Florida increased from 13,678 in 1997 to 19,820 in 1999, then decreased to 17,568 in 2000, and decreased again to 13,375 in 2001. (See Table 3 in Overview section.) Approximately 76 percent (10,164) of cocaine-related admissions in Florida in 2001 were for smoked cocaine (crack). The number of cocaine-related treatment admissions per 100,000 population (155) in Florida exceeded the number per 100,000 population nationwide (104) in 1999, the most recent year for which these data are available. According to combined data from the 1999 and the 2000 NHSDA, 1.7 percent of Florida residents surveyed reported having abused cocaine at least once during the year prior to the survey, comparable to 1.6 percent nationwide.
Cocaine abuse frequently is cited in drug-related deaths in Florida. According to the 2001 Report of Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons by Florida Medical Examiners, there were 1,105 cocaine-related deaths in the state in 2001. Of the 1,105 cocaine-related deaths, 390 were overdoses. The areas with the highest number of cocaine-related deaths were Miami, West Palm Beach, Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando. According to DAWN mortality data, cocaine-related deaths in Miami-Dade County increased from 1996 through 2000. Cocaine was a factor in 129 deaths in Miami-Dade County in 1996 and 151 deaths in 2000. There were more deaths related to cocaine than to any other illicit drug during that period.
Miami had more emergency department (ED) mentions associated with cocaine abuse than with abuse of any other illicit drug from 1997 through 2001. According to DAWN data, the number of cocaine-related ED mentions in Miami increased annually from 3,254 in 1997 to 4,641 in 2001. The rate of cocaine-related ED mentions per 100,000 population in Miami also increased from 174 in 1997 to 225 in 2001.
The percentage of high school students in Florida who reported having abused cocaine is statistically comparable to the percentage nationwide. According to 2001 YRBS data, 8.3 percent of Florida high school students surveyed reported having abused cocaine at least once in their lifetime, compared with 9.4 percent nationwide. Further, 4.0 percent of Florida high school students surveyed reported that they had abused cocaine in the 30 days prior to the survey, compared with 4.2 percent nationally. There reportedly are indications of a resurgence in the popularity of powdered cocaine abuse among teenagers and young adults, particularly those who attend rave parties and nightclubs. Currently there is a growing stigma associated with crack use, especially in metropolitan areas. This may contribute to a slight decline in the rate of crack cocaine abuse among young people.
Cocaine frequently was detected among adult male arrestees in Miami and Fort Lauderdale in 2000. According to ADAM data, 43.5 percent of adult male arrestees in Miami and 30.9 percent in Fort Lauderdale tested positive for cocaine abuse in 2000. (See Table 2 in Overview section.)
Cocaine, both powdered and crack, is readily available in Florida. From 1997 through 2001 cocaine was seized more frequently than any other illicit drug except marijuana. However, according to FDSS data, the amount of cocaine seized by federal law enforcement officials in Florida decreased from 24,376 kilograms in 1997 to 7,357 kilograms in 2001. (See Table 1 in Overview section.) According to various law enforcement officials in Florida, powdered cocaine is increasingly available at nightclubs in metropolitan areas such as Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Tallahassee, and Tampa. Crack cocaine is readily available throughout the state, particularly in economically distressed communities in urban areas.
The price of powdered and crack cocaine in Florida varies, depending on a number of factors including the buyer's familiarity with the seller, the area of distribution, and the quantity sold. Cocaine prices are generally higher in the northern part of the state. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Miami Division, kilogram quantities of powdered cocaine sold for $16,000 to $24,000 in southern Florida, $18,000 to $28,600 in central Florida, and $23,000 to $30,000 in northern Florida in the second quarter of FY2002. During that period crack cocaine sold for $20,000 to $30,000 per kilogram statewide, when available in that quantity. DEA further reported that in the second quarter of FY2002, powdered cocaine sold for $600 to $1,400 per ounce and $20 to $110 per gram statewide. Crack sold for $5 to $20 per rock (one-fifth to one-quarter gram), depending upon where the cocaine was sold.
The percentage of cocaine-related federal sentences in Florida was significantly higher than for any other drug each year from FY1997 through FY2001 and was higher than the percentage nationwide every year during that period. According to USSC data, 59.2 percent of drug-related federal sentences in Florida in FY2001 were powdered cocaine- or crack cocaine-related, compared with 42.5 percent nationally. Further, 41.5 percent of the drug-related federal sentences in Florida in FY2001 were powdered cocaine-related, compared with 22.1 percent nationwide. In FY2001 powdered cocaine-related federal sentences accounted for a higher percentage of all federal drug-related sentences in the Southern District of Florida (51.5%) than in the Middle District of Florida (28.2%) or the Northern District of Florida (17.8%).
Crack cocaine is the drug most frequently associated with violent crime in Florida, particularly in inner-city neighborhoods and low-income housing projects. Retail crack distributors, particularly African American and Hispanic gang members, in these locations often commit assault and homicide to protect their turf. Federal, state, and local law enforcement officials report that criminal groups and gangs that distribute crack often commit drive-by shooting, home invasion, and assault. In addition, crack cocaine abusers frequently commit violent crimes to support their drug habit.
Coca is not cultivated nor is cocaine produced in Florida. Virtually all of the cocaine consumed in the world is produced in South America. Colombian DTOs produce most of the cocaine smuggled into Florida.
Most of the crack sold in Florida is converted from powdered cocaine in the state. Distributors are aware that federal sentences for distribution or possession of crack are lengthier than for powdered cocaine. Consequently, distributors typically convert powdered cocaine into crack locally and often distribute the drug near the conversion site.
Florida is the primary destination for cocaine smuggled from South America through the Caribbean and into the United States. Miami and, to a lesser extent, Jacksonville and Tampa serve as regional transportation hubs and transshipment points for multikilogram to multihundred-kilogram quantities of cocaine generally destined for distribution in states east of the Mississippi River. Colombian DTOs and criminal groups control the transportation into the state; however, they usually rely on Bahamian, Cuban American, Dominican, Haitian, Jamaican, Puerto Rican, and other Caribbean-based criminal groups to transport cocaine into Florida. Maritime vessels are the primary conveyances used to transport cocaine into Florida, although commercial and private aircraft and vehicles, buses, trains, and package delivery services also are used.
Most of the cocaine transported into Florida is smuggled aboard maritime vessels. Some vessels depart from source or transit countries in South and Central America and the Caribbean en route to Florida. Other vessels rendezvous with maritime vessels acting as motherships or retrieve cocaine from airdrops. Large shipments of cocaine typically are smuggled into the state aboard containerized cargo vessels, coastal freighters, and go-fast boats. Cocaine smuggled aboard containerized cargo vessels typically is intermingled with goods inside a container or concealed within the walls of the container, while cocaine smuggled aboard coastal freighters usually is secreted inside fuel or water tanks, voids in the vessels' structures, or within hidden compartments. Cocaine smuggled in go-fast boats usually is covered with a tarp. Smaller quantities of cocaine frequently are smuggled aboard cruise ships and pleasure craft. Drug couriers aboard cruise ships typically conceal cocaine on their person or in their luggage. These couriers also store cocaine on the ship for retrieval after the vessel has docked or pass cocaine to corrupt crew members. Cocaine also is airdropped to maritime vessels waiting in the Caribbean, the Florida Straits, or near the Bahamas. Once airdropped, packages of cocaine, usually attached to fishing buoys by a cable, are transported to Florida in go-fast boats, fishing vessels, or other maritime means. USCS officials in Florida seized over 14,375 kilograms of cocaine from maritime vessels in 2001.
Commercial and private aircraft and package delivery services also are used to transport cocaine into Florida. Cocaine shipments smuggled into Florida on aircraft are concealed using various means. Couriers often conceal cocaine internally, tape the drug to their bodies, or hide it in clothing. Cocaine also is hidden in luggage among clothing or inside false compartments. Cocaine in air cargo shipments typically is packaged inside a container or box or intermingled with legitimate products. USCS officials in Florida seized over 1,435 kilograms of cocaine from commercial and private aircraft and over 19 kilograms in packages in 2001. On March 27, 2002, DEA seized 20 kilograms of cocaine in an air cargo shipment at the package facility in Miami. On January 28 and 29, 2002, USCS agents at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport arrested two drug couriers arriving from Haiti and seized approximately 16.5 kilograms of cocaine that was hidden in false panels of suitcases.
Commercial and private vehicles are the primary overland conveyances used to transport cocaine to Florida, principally to the northern and central parts of the state, although buses and trains also are used. Some Mexican criminal groups transport cocaine across the U.S.-Mexico border to Florida via tractor-trailers and private vehicles. On August 26, 2002, federal, state, and local law enforcement officers arrested 12 members of a Jacksonville-based DTO and seized approximately 300 pounds of cocaine, more than 1 ton of marijuana, and $1.1 million. Law enforcement officials report that the DTO transported cocaine and marijuana in commercial trucks and private vehicles from Mexico to Jacksonville for distribution to midlevel wholesale dealers in Florida, the Carolinas, and New York. The DTO--composed primarily of Mexican nationals--had distributed drugs from the Jacksonville area for approximately 3 years. Cocaine also is transported using similar conveyances from Florida to other states such as Georgia, New Jersey, and New York. In 2001 law enforcement officials seized 190 kilograms of cocaine from commercial and private vehicles in Florida as part of Operation Pipeline. They also seized 46 kilograms of cocaine on buses and 28 kilograms of cocaine on trains as part of Operation Jetway that year.
Florida is one of the most significant cocaine distribution areas in the United States. DTOs and criminal groups based in Miami supply cocaine to distributors throughout Florida in addition to those that generally operate east of the Mississippi River. According to the New York/New Jersey HIDTA, Miami is a supply area for cocaine distributed in New York and New Jersey. Further, state and local law enforcement officials in at least eight other states--Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia--responding to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey (NDTS) 2002 report that Miami is a supply area for cocaine available in their jurisdictions.
Colombian DTOs and criminal groups are the primary wholesale distributors of powdered cocaine in Florida. These DTOs and criminal groups often sell multikilogram quantities of powdered cocaine to African American, Mexican, Dominican, Haitian, Jamaican and other Caribbean criminal groups who also distribute wholesale and midlevel quantities of powdered cocaine in the state, sometimes on behalf of Colombian DTOs. According to federal and state law enforcement officials, Mexican criminal groups increasingly are using their well-established distribution networks to distribute wholesale and retail quantities of cocaine and other drugs in Florida. Many criminal groups temporarily store and distribute cocaine from stash houses. Multiounce to multikilogram quantities of cocaine are then sold to various DTOs and criminal groups for further distribution in Florida and in other states.
The primary criminal groups and gangs that distribute wholesale quantities of crack cocaine in Florida vary by area. In southern Florida where wholesale crack distribution is most common, Haitian and Jamaican criminal groups and African American and Hispanic gangs such as Bloods, Crips, Gangster Disciples, Latin Kings, and Vice Lords are the dominant wholesale distributors of crack. In northern and central Florida, African American and Hispanic gangs and local independent Caucasian dealers are the primary wholesale distributors. Federal, state, and local law enforcement officials report that wholesale crack distributors sometimes sell "cookies," crack that has been formed into patties measuring approximately 3 inches in diameter and weighing approximately 1 ounce.
Various criminal groups, gangs, and local independent dealers sell retail quantities of powdered and crack cocaine in Florida. African American, Haitian, Jamaican, Mexican, and Caucasian criminal groups; gangs such as Bloods, Crips, Gangster Disciples, Latin Kings, and Vice Lords; and local independent Caucasian and African American dealers are the dominant retail distributors of powdered and crack cocaine in Florida. Powdered cocaine, usually cut with diluents such as cornstarch, flour, talc, and vitamin B12, is most frequently packaged in plastic bags. The drug usually is distributed at open-air drug markets, private residences, some businesses and offices, parties, nightclubs, and raves or techno parties. Crack usually is sold as rocks and packaged in small plastic bags at open-air drug markets.
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