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National Drug Intelligence Center
Arkansas Drug Threat Assessment
Methamphetamine is a principal drug threat to Arkansas, primarily because of the drug's ready availability and the violence and environmental harm that often result from methamphetamine production and abuse. Methamphetamine produced by Mexican criminal groups in Mexico, California, and southwestern states is widely available in Arkansas. Methamphetamine produced in the state, generally by Caucasian local independent producers, also is available. Mexican criminal groups are the primary transporters and wholesale distributors of methamphetamine produced in Mexico, California, and southwestern states. Local independent producers control the transportation and distribution of the methamphetamine they produce within the state. Mexican criminal groups, Caucasian local independent dealers, street gangs, and OMGs distribute methamphetamine at the retail level throughout Arkansas.
Law enforcement officials in Arkansas report that methamphetamine abuse is a significant problem throughout the state. In response to the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) National Drug Threat Survey (NDTS) 2002, all of the 24 law enforcement respondents in Arkansas indicated that methamphetamine abuse was high in their jurisdictions. (See text box.)
Amphetamine-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities in Arkansas increased by 80 percent from 1,547 in 1998 to 2,781 in 2002, according to the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS). (Nationwide, 95 percent of the amphetamine-related treatment admissions reported to TEDS are methamphetamine-related.) The Arkansas Department of Health reports that the number of amphetamine-related treatment admissions, which includes methamphetamine-related admissions, increased by 64 percent from 1,822 in SFY1998 to 2,993 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.)
Methamphetamine abuse among adolescents in Arkansas is statistically comparable to the national rate. According to the 2001 YRBS, 11.8 percent of students in grades 9 through 12 in Arkansas reported having used methamphetamine at least once in their lifetime, compared to 9.8 percent nationwide.
Methamphetamine is readily available throughout Arkansas. In response to the NDTS 2002, all of the 24 law enforcement respondents in Arkansas indicated that methamphetamine availability was high in their jurisdictions. Methamphetamine produced in Mexico, California, and southwestern states is widely available in Arkansas; however, methamphetamine produced in the state also is available. In addition, crystal methamphetamine, commonly referred to as ice, is available in the state and, according to the DEA New Orleans Division, crystal methamphetamine seizures have increased in the Fayetteville area.
According to the Federal-wide Drug Seizure System (FDSS), federal law enforcement officials in Arkansas seized 13.8 kilograms of methamphetamine in 1998, 15.7 kilograms in 1999, 9.1 kilograms in 2000, 9.2 kilograms in 2001, and 14.8 kilograms in 2002. In addition, the Arkansas State Police seized more than 1.3 kilograms of methamphetamine in 2001 and more than 37.0 kilograms in 2002.
The percentage of federal sentences that were methamphetamine-related in Arkansas was more than twice the national percentage. According to USSC in FY2001, 33 percent of drug-related federal sentences in Arkansas were methamphetamine-related, compared with 14 percent nationwide. (See Table 2.) There were 63 federal sentences for methamphetamine-related offenses in Arkansas in FY1997, 63 in FY1998, 50 in FY1999, 62 in FY2000, and 55 in FY2001.
Prices for methamphetamine in Arkansas have remained relatively stable, while purity levels have fluctuated. According to the DEA New Orleans Division, methamphetamine has sold for $10,000 per pound, $1,000 to $1,600 per ounce, and $100 per gram in Fayetteville, Little Rock, and Fort Smith since FY1999. The Fayetteville Police Department reports that the most common quantity sold on the street in Fayetteville is an "8-ball" (one-eighth ounce) that sells for $250. According to DEA's System to Retrieve Information from Drug Evidence (STRIDE), the average purity of methamphetamine analyzed in Arkansas was 29.8 percent in FY1998, 31.6 percent in FY1999, 39.2 percent in FY2000, 64.3 percent in FY2001, and 35.0 percent in FY2002.
The potential for violence associated with methamphetamine abuse is a concern within the state. Methamphetamine abusers are unpredictable and experience feelings of fright and confusion, particularly during the tweaking stage of abuse. They often are paranoid and delusional and frequently arm themselves against perceived threats. In addition, methamphetamine abusers will commit violent crimes to obtain the drug. The Washington County Sheriff's Office reports that methamphetamine is associated with violent crime in its jurisdiction, while the Searcy Police Department reports that an overwhelming number of violent offenders in Searcy are methamphetamine abusers. Methamphetamine abuse also has been linked to incidents of domestic battery in Arkansas.
Violence associated with methamphetamine distribution also is a concern to law enforcement officials in Arkansas. Methamphetamine distributors sometimes commit violent crimes to defend or expand their distribution territory. Street gangs that distribute methamphetamine reportedly have committed aggravated assault, drive by shooting, and homicide. Arkansas law enforcement respondents to the NDIC National Gang Survey 2000 reported that the following gangs distribute methamphetamine and commit violent crimes in their jurisdictions: Gangster Disciples, Tiny Oriental Crips, Young Oriental Gangsters, and 8th Street in Fort Smith and Mara Salvatrucha in Rogers.
Methamphetamine production and abuse in Arkansas adversely affect children. Children are exposed to toxic chemicals and byproducts when methamphetamine laboratories are operated in or near their homes. In addition, children of methamphetamine laboratory operators often are abused or neglected. According to EPIC, 76 children were found at methamphetamine laboratory sites in Arkansas during 2002.
Mexican criminal groups using the hydriodic acid/red phosphorus reduction method in high-volume laboratories in Mexico, California, and southwestern states produce most of the methamphetamine available in Arkansas. Caucasian local independent laboratory operators also produce methamphetamine in Arkansas. They typically use the iodine/red phosphorus method and, to a lesser extent, the Birch reduction (Nazi) method to produce gram to ounce quantities of methamphetamine for personal use and for distribution to friends and associates. (See Methamphetamine Production Methods text box.)
The number of methamphetamine laboratories seized in Arkansas increased overall from 1998 through 2002. According to EPIC, the number of laboratories, chemicals, glassware, and dumpsites seized in Arkansas increased from 239 in FY1998 to 383 in FY1999. Thereafter, the number of such seizures stabilized: 392 were seized in FY2000, 393 in FY2001, and 386 in FY2002. In addition, the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory reports that 428 methamphetamine laboratories, dumpsites, or chemicals and glassware were seized statewide in calendar year 1998, 552 in 1999, 780 in 2000, 853 in 2001, 955 in 2002, and 749 in the first 7 months of 2003. (See Table 3.) (Disparities between federal and state reporting on seizures of methamphetamine laboratories occur because of differences in data collection and reporting methodologies.) Most of these laboratories were relatively small, rudimentary, and portable, making their detection a challenge for law enforcement authorities. A number of these laboratories were located in apartments, single-family homes, hotel rooms, vehicles, and abandoned barns and farmhouses.
The iodine/red phosphorus method of methamphetamine production is predominantly found at methamphetamine laboratories seized in Arkansas. According to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, 40 percent of the methamphetamine laboratories seized statewide in 2000 used the iodine/red phosphorus method compared with 62 percent in 2002. Iodine/red phosphorus laboratories have been seized in Conway, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Greenwood, Hot Springs, Jonesboro, Little Rock, Pine Bluff, Searcy, Siloam Springs, Springdale, Texarkana, and West Memphis. The Birch reduction method of methamphetamine production also is used in the state and is common in the agricultural areas of Arkansas because of the wide availability of anhydrous ammonia. Anhydrous ammonia is used legitimately as a fertilizer, but is diverted by methamphetamine producers as an essential chemical for production of the drug. The percentage of Birch reduction laboratories seized statewide dropped from 35 percent in 2000 to 17 percent in 2002. Birch reduction laboratories have been seized in Conway, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Hot Springs, Jonesboro, Little Rock, Morrilton, Pine Bluff, Searcy, Springdale, Siloam Springs, and Texarkana. The P2P production method is used less frequently in Arkansas. Methamphetamine laboratories using the P2P method have been seized in Little Rock, Morrilton, Pine Bluff, and Springdale.
The chemicals used in methamphetamine production are readily available in Arkansas. Anhydrous ammonia often is stolen from farms and farm supply outlets. Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine can be extracted from diet pills and many over-the-counter cold medicines using coffee filters, coffeepots, tabletop grills, and microwave ovens. Iodine can be purchased at local feed stores, and lithium often is extracted from camera batteries.
Methamphetamine production creates serious safety and environmental concerns. Toxic and hazardous waste from methamphetamine production endangers law enforcement personnel, emergency response teams, children (particularly those in the homes of methamphetamine producers), and the environment. The chemicals used in the production process are toxic, highly flammable, and yield poisonous vapors. Production of 1 pound of methamphetamine yields approximately 5 to 7 pounds of toxic waste. Methamphetamine laboratory operators often dump chemicals in areas accessible to the public. These chemicals contaminate soil, streams and rivers, and public sewer systems. Remediation of laboratory sites costs federal, state, and local governments millions of dollars every year. The average cost of cleaning one site is $5,000; however, costs can exceed $100,000 for larger sites.
Mexican criminal groups are the primary transporters of methamphetamine into Arkansas. These groups transport the drug from Mexico, California, and southwestern states generally in private and commercial vehicles outfitted with hidden compartments. Mexican criminal groups typically transport methamphetamine along I-30 and I-40 en route to destinations such as Fort Smith, Little Rock, and North Little Rock. Caucasian local independent producers also transport small quantities of locally produced methamphetamine throughout the state using private vehicles.
Mexican criminal groups often employ couriers to transport methamphetamine into Arkansas. Hispanic migrants, primarily Mexican nationals who have relocated to Arkansas seeking employment in the poultry producing and processing industry, often are recruited by Mexican criminal groups to transport methamphetamine. Caucasians and African Americans are also employed as couriers, but to a lesser extent. Cities such as North Little Rock and Pine Bluff, where poultry producing and processing operations are located, have become primary destinations for methamphetamine produced in Mexico, California, and southwestern states.
Mexican criminal groups are the primary wholesale distributors of methamphetamine produced in Mexico, California, and southwestern states. Methamphetamine is not produced locally in quantities large enough to support wholesale distribution.
Mexican criminal groups, Caucasian local independent dealers, street gangs, and OMGs distribute methamphetamine at the retail level. Mexican criminal groups are the primary retail distributors of methamphetamine produced in Mexico, California, and southwestern states. Caucasian local independent dealers, street gangs, and OMGs distribute methamphetamine produced in Mexico, California, and southwestern states, as well as locally produced methamphetamine. Retail distribution of methamphetamine in Arkansas typically occurs in residences, parking lots, or business establishments such as bars, strip clubs, and taverns. Retail sales generally involve small amounts such as gram or eighth-ounce quantities. Methamphetamine sold at the retail level is most frequently packaged in plastic bags.
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