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National Drug Intelligence Center
Arkansas Drug Threat Assessment
Cocaine, particularly crack, poses a significant threat to Arkansas because it is readily available, highly addictive, and frequently associated with violent crime. Powdered cocaine is available throughout most of the state, while crack cocaine primarily is available in the larger cities. Mexican criminal groups dominate the transportation of powdered cocaine into Arkansas, smuggling the drug from Mexico through California and southwestern states to Arkansas primarily in private and commercial vehicles. These groups also dominate wholesale powdered cocaine distribution throughout the state. African American street gangs and local independent dealers also distribute some powdered cocaine at the wholesale level. African American street gangs and local independent dealers are the primary distributors of powdered and crack cocaine at the retail level. Mexican criminal groups also distribute powdered cocaine at the retail level, but to a lesser extent. African American street gangs and local independent dealers typically convert powdered cocaine to crack for retail distribution at or near distribution sites. Retail cocaine distribution commonly occurs on street corners, in bars, and at private residences and is facilitated by the use of pagers, pay phones, and cellular telephones.
Law enforcement officials in Arkansas report that cocaine abuse is common in the state. Law enforcement officials in Arkansas County, Franklin County, Garland County, Pulaski County, Conway, El Dorado, Fort Smith, Hot Springs, Jonesboro, Little Rock, Morrilton, Pine Bluff, Searcy, Springdale, Stuttgart, Texarkana, and West Memphis who responded to the NDTS 2002 reported that levels of powdered cocaine or crack cocaine abuse are high in their jurisdictions. The percentage of Arkansas residents who report having abused cocaine in the past year is statistically comparable to the percentage nationwide. According to combined data from the 1999 and the 2000 NHSDA, 1.5 percent of Arkansas residents aged 12 and over reported having abused cocaine in the year prior to the survey, compared to 1.6 percent nationwide.
Cocaine-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities in Arkansas increased slightly (5%) from 1,900 in 1998 to 2,003 in 2002, according to TEDS. However, data from the Arkansas Department of Health indicate that the number of cocaine-related treatment admissions decreased 16 percent, from 2,577 in SFY1998 to 2,157 in SFY2002. (See Table 1 in Overview section.) (Disparities between federal and state reporting on admissions to substance abuse treatment programs likely occur because of differences in data collection and reporting methodologies.)
Treatment admissions for crack cocaine abuse are significantly higher than for powdered cocaine abuse in Arkansas. According to TEDS, of the 2,003 cocaine-related treatment admissions reported in 2002, 1,656 were related to smoked cocaine (crack) abuse. Of the 2,157 cocaine-related treatment admissions reported by the Arkansas Department of Health in 2002, 1,524 were for crack.
Cocaine abuse among Arkansas youth is statistically comparable to the national percentage. According to the 2001 YRBS, 8.7 percent of students in grades 9 through 12 in Arkansas reported having used cocaine at least once in their lifetime, compared to 9.4 percent nationwide.
Powdered cocaine is readily available throughout most of the state, while crack cocaine is primarily available in the larger cities. Law enforcement officials in Conway, El Dorado, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Hot Springs, Jonesboro, Little Rock, Morrilton, Pine Bluff, Searcy, Siloam Springs, Springdale, Stuttgart, Texarkana, and West Memphis who responded to the NDTS 2002 reported that powdered cocaine and crack cocaine were readily available in their jurisdictions. Law enforcement officials in Greenwood and Poinsett County reported that powdered cocaine and crack cocaine were moderately available.
Seizure data also reflect the ready availability of cocaine in Arkansas. According to FDSS data, federal law enforcement officials in Arkansas seized 290.8 kilograms of cocaine in 1998, 660.2 kilograms in 1999, 1,224.6 kilograms in 2000, 23.8 kilograms in 2001, and 303.3 kilograms in 2002. Law enforcement authorities who reported to Operation Pipeline seized nearly 1,588 kilograms of cocaine on Arkansas highways in 2000 and 212 kilograms in 2001.
In FY2001 the percentage of cocaine-related federal sentences in Arkansas was higher than the national percentage. According to USSC data, in FY2001, 52 percent of federal drug-related sentences in Arkansas were for cocaine-related offenses, compared with 43 percent nationally. There were 14 sentences for powdered cocaine-related violations in Arkansas in FY1997, 17 in FY1998, 30 in FY1999, 25 in FY2000, and 19 in FY2001. The number of crack cocaine-related federal sentences was 70 in FY1997, 49 in FY1998, 65 in FY1999, 43 in FY2000, and 67 in FY2001.
According to the DEA New Orleans Division, from FY1999 through FY2002 powdered cocaine sold for $100 to $200 per gram in Fayetteville, $80 to $100 per gram in Little Rock, and $100 per gram in Fort Smith. During the same period powdered cocaine sold for $800 to $900 per ounce in Fayetteville, $1,200 to $1,600 per ounce in Fort Smith, and $900 to $1,200 per ounce in Little Rock. Crack cocaine sold for $800 to $1,000 per ounce in Fayetteville and Little Rock, and $1,600 per ounce in Fort Smith from FY1999 through FY2002, according to DEA. Local law enforcement officials report that crack sold for $20 per rock in Fayetteville, $10 per rock in Little Rock, and from $10 to $30 per rock, depending on the size, in Fort Smith in 2003. STRIDE program data indicate that the average purity of powdered cocaine decreased statewide from 77.6 percent in FY1998 to 71.8 percent in FY2002, while the average purity of crack cocaine decreased from 65.8 percent to 50.6 percent during the same period.
Violent crime in the state often is associated with crack cocaine distribution and abuse. Crack abusers often commit violent crimes to support their addiction, and crack distributors commonly commit violent crimes to protect their drug operations. The Stuttgart Police Department reports that incidents of crack cocaine-related burglary, theft, and prostitution are common. According to the Fort Smith Police Department, many of the violent crimes in its jurisdiction are related to crack distributors attempting to collect debts from abusers. The Searcy Police Department reports that an overwhelming portion of the violent crime in its jurisdiction is related to crack cocaine abuse. According to the Hot Springs Police Department, there has been an increase in drive-by shootings linked to territorial disputes over crack cocaine distribution as well as an increase in the number of residential burglaries and shoplifting incidents committed by crack abusers.
Street gangs that distribute crack cocaine in Arkansas often are associated with violent crime. Respondents to the NDIC National Gang Survey 2000 reported that street gangs in Arkansas that distribute cocaine, particularly crack cocaine, commit violent crimes. These gangs include Young Oriental Gangsters in Fort Smith, Piru in Jonesboro, numerous sets of Bloods in Little Rock, and NWA, Project Boys, and 18th Street in West Memphis.
Coca is not cultivated, nor is cocaine produced in Arkansas. Cocaine is produced in South America, primarily Colombia. However, retail distributors commonly convert powdered cocaine into crack in the state on an as-needed basis. Crack conversion commonly occurs near distribution sites at stash houses or homes of street gang members.
Mexican criminal groups are the primary transporters of wholesale quantities of powdered cocaine into and through Arkansas. They generally smuggle the drug from Mexico through California and southwestern states to Arkansas. Mexican criminal groups also transport powdered cocaine into Arkansas from Chicago, Illinois; Kansas City, Kansas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Memphis, Tennessee. African American street gangs and, to a lesser extent, African American independent dealers also transport wholesale quantities of powdered cocaine into Arkansas, primarily from Los Angeles.
Cocaine typically is transported into Arkansas via Interstates 30 and 40. The drug generally is concealed in hidden compartments located in commercial and private vehicles. Transporters also intermingle cocaine with legitimate items such as produce, or conceal the drug in luggage.
Cocaine destined for other states often is transported through Arkansas. Law enforcement officers in Arkansas have seized cocaine destined for other areas including Illinois, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C. For example, in March 2003 Arkansas State Police seized 35 pounds of cocaine with an estimated street value of $1.5 million from a van traveling east on Highway 64 near I-40 in London. The officer had stopped the van for a traffic violation. A consensual search of the vehicle revealed the cocaine concealed inside the spare tire. The operator of the van identified himself as a resident of Marietta, Georgia, and claimed to be en route from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to Atlanta, Georgia. He was arrested on charges of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and obstructing governmental operations.
Most of the crack cocaine available in Arkansas is converted locally on an as-needed basis to avoid the stricter federal penalties associated with crack possession. However, African American street gangs and African American local independent dealers transport some crack cocaine into Arkansas from surrounding states. According to the Fayetteville Police Department, African American local independent dealers transport crack from West Memphis, Arkansas, and Memphis, Tennessee, to Fayetteville. Law enforcement officials in Fort Smith report that African American local independent dealers transport crack into their jurisdiction from Oklahoma City.
Mexican criminal groups are the primary wholesale distributors of powdered cocaine throughout the state. These groups reportedly are supplied by other Mexican criminal groups in Los Angeles, California, and Houston and Dallas, Texas. African American street gangs and local independent dealers also distribute some powdered cocaine at the wholesale level throughout the state.
African American street gangs and local independent dealers are the primary distributors of powdered cocaine at the retail level. Mexican criminal groups also distribute powdered cocaine at the retail level, but to a lesser extent. Retail powdered cocaine distribution commonly is prearranged or conducted using pagers, pay phones, and cellular telephones. Transactions occur in residences, on street corners, and at bars.
African American street gangs and local independent dealers are the primary retail distributors of crack cocaine in the state, particularly in the Little Rock and West Memphis areas. Crack typically is not distributed at the wholesale level. Street gangs that distribute crack cocaine at the retail level in Arkansas include Crips, Bloods, Folks, and Vice Lords in Little Rock and Vice Lords and Gangster Disciples in West Memphis. Crack cocaine typically is sold at private residences (especially in low-income public housing complexes), motel rooms, open-air drug markets, parking lots, and bars.
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