DEA Congressional Testimony
May 08, 1998

Statement by:
Peter F. Gruden
Special Agent in Charge
Drug Enforcement Administration
United States Department of Justice

Before the:
District of Columbia Subcommittee

Regarding:
Cooperative efforts with the Metropolitan Police Department

Date:
May 08, 1998

Note: This document may not reflect changes made in actual delivery.

Contents

Trafficking Trends in Metropolitan D.C.

DEA’s Cooperation with the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)


Chairman Davis and Members of the Subcommittee: Thank you for the invitation to testify on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) cooperative efforts with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and our role in local anti-crime efforts. My comments today will entail a historical perspective on the DEA and the MPD’s successful relationship and the challenges we face in the nation’s capitol to combat drug trafficking.

Before discussing the historical and current cooperative drug law enforcement efforts in the District of Columbia (D.C.), it is important to understand who is bringing this poison; the heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana, into our community and selling it to our children. The drug trade in the United States is controlled by organized criminal syndicates from Mexico and Colombia, whose leaders live in sanctuaries in Cali, Medellin, Sonora, and Guadalajara, beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement. They send armies of workers to the United States to control the transportation and distribution of their drugs through a network of compartmentalized cells.

The drug trade in the United States operates as a seamless continuum with these syndicate leaders controlling virtually every phase of drug distribution, from the transportation specialists, who move cocaine through the Caribbean or Mexico into the United States, to the cell managers who control the delivery and wholesale distribution of multi-hundred kilograms of cocaine to cities throughout the U.S. We have documented the direct influence of these drug lords in locations as varied as: Richmond, Virginia; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Aurora, Illinois.

The distribution of illegal drugs in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, like every other major city, is directly influenced by the leaders of these foreign drug syndicates. New York City, which is the one of the most significant wholesale distribution centers for cocaine and heroin in the United States, serves as a major source for the heroin and cocaine sold in the Washington, D.C., market. Washington’s strategic location on the Interstate 95 corridor between New York and Miami places it astride a regular transit route for thousands of kilograms of cocaine and hundreds of kilograms of heroin annually, bound for the Northeast and other U.S. drug markets.

The Washington metropolitan area is home to a number of major drug trafficking organizations with direct ties to foreign sources in South America, Central America, Africa, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia. Although D.C. is not a common base of operations for the command and control functions of Colombian and Mexican drug syndicates, there is no question of their direct influence over the cocaine and heroin markets within the District, as well as the entire metropolitan area.

The wholesale level traffickers operating in D.C., who act as surrogates for the foreign drug syndicates, are usually composed of family members and lifelong associates of D.C. residents. They have ready access to sophisticated smuggling pipelines, and high-tech communications systems, including cellular telephones, pagers and facsimile machines. The wholesale level traffickers supply numerous mid-level organizations based throughout the area. The mid-level organizations are generally made up of long-time local traffickers who have worked their way up through the drug trade. The mid-level traffickers, in turn, supply street distribution groups that exert control in several D.C. neighborhoods and communities.

The city’s drug trade is driven by the existence of a large consumer population residing in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding suburbs. Competition for control of the lucrative retail market is the source of much of the violence we have seen in our city over the last several years. Drug trafficking organizations operating in D.C. range from well-established wholesale distribution organizations, to loosely-knit street level distribution groups that control "open air" drug markets, which also generate a high level of drug-related violence and homicide.

 

Trafficking Trends in Metropolitan D.C.

Crack cocaine first arrived on the drug scene during the mid-1980's and reached epidemic proportions in just a few years. In many parts of the country methamphetamine has overtaken crack cocaine as the drug of choice. However, in D.C., according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), in 1996, almost as many patients were admitted to area emergency rooms for cocaine and crack-related episodes (3,340) as for marijuana and heroin-related episodes combined (3,390). Cocaine is brought into the metropolitan area and is converted to crack at some point between the mid-level wholesale and retail level.

Heroin remains a popular drug of abuse in D.C. The DAWN reports that heroin episodes have steadily increased over the last three years -- with 1,261 episodes in 1994, 1,301 episodes in 1995 and 1,492 heroin-related episodes in 1996. This increase in popularity is consistent with the return to heroin abuse in many parts of our country. The major source of heroin sold in the D.C. is from Colombian traffickers in New York City or Dominican trafficking groups acting as their surrogates at the wholesale level. Nigerian traffickers, who obtain their heroin from source countries in the Far and Middle East, are also significant sources of supply for wholesale heroin dealers in Washington.

A recent series of seizures highlighted the involvement of Nigerians in the smuggling of heroin to the city. On March 6, 1998, DEA was contacted by the United States Customs Service regarding two Federal Express packages that contained heroin. A similar package containing heroin was also intercepted in Indianapolis, Indiana. These packages were addressed to three separate addresses in Washington D.C. Ultimately nineteen pounds of very high quality Southeast Asian heroin destined for sale on the streets of the District were seized and three traffickers from a Nigerian heroin trafficking ring were arrested. This group shipped heroin from Sotheast Asia via Singapore and the Phillippines to the Washington area for distribution.

Overall, methamphetamine trafficking and abuse appear to be increasing in rural and suburban areas of Virginia and Maryland and the urban night club scene. Wile the D.C. metropolitan area has not experienced the levels of methamphetamine abuse seen in states such as California, with the Mexican trafficking organizations sweeping eastward with methamphetamine distribution it can be anticipated that instances of abuse will be more widely reported.

Jamaican traffickers maintain a dominant presence in the marijuana distribution activities in the city. Express parcel delivery service is a primary transportation method for shipping much of marijuana that comes into D.C. During late 1996, a joint Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) case, initiated by DEA and MPD, focused on the distribution activities of a Jamaican trafficking organization operating in D.C.; Los Angeles, California; and other cities on the East Coast. Twenty-three individuals were indicted in this case and charged with distribution, operating a Continuing Criminal Enterprise, and money laundering. Reliable community sources suggest that Jamaican traffickers are responsible for much of the marijuana distribution that takes place in area schools. Just recently, an Anacostia third grader was found in possession of a "blunt"---a cigar which had been voided of tobacco and filled with marijuana.

 

DEA’s Cooperation with the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)

DEA and the Metropolitan Police Department have a long history of cooperation in countering the drug threat in the nation’s capitol, having worked side by side for over 20 years. Throughout that period the focus of the relationship has shifted in response to the changing dynamics of the drug trade. One of our first significant efforts together came in the early 1980's when we formed a task force to address the burgeoning problem of phencyclidine (PCP). An animal tranquilizer with hallucinogenic properties that was most commonly found in the Midwest, PCP was being widely abused in the District of Colombia. Our efforts successfully targeted both traffickers and laboratory operators who were manufacturing phencyclidine right here in the District and in Maryland.

As the PCP threat abated, the abuse and distribution of crack cocaine reached epidemic proportions and the law enforcement focus shifted, from other initiatives, to dealing with the crack epidemic and the violence that became so prevalent throughout the city as drug gangs fought for territories and sought revenge against rival trafficking groups. This drug related violence was a primary cause in Washington D.C. reporting the highest murder rate among large cities in the United States from 1987 through 1997. Significantly, the population of Washington steadily declined over the same period.

DEA and MPD again joined forces in former Drug Czar William Bennett’s Task Force with officers from both Federal and local jurisdictions. The Bennett Task Force, which was initiated in June 1989, to address the burgeoning rise in the violent crime rate associated with the arrival of crack cocaine, evolved into what is now the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area Task Force (MATF). This task force approach brought together Federal, state, local, and international counterparts to target area drug problems and the skyrocketing murder rate.

As the number of homicides in the District increased, DEA also joined with the MPD to form a drug-related homicide task force, known as REDRUM in January of 1991. The REDRUM TASK FORCE joined MPD Homicide Detectives with DEA Special Agents to investigate drug related murders and contract killings. This task force was able to forge the experience and knowledge of veteran homicide investigators with the expertise in conducting narcotic investigations and access to the vast data base on narcotic traffickers of DEA Special Agents. The REDRUM initiative was the genesis for the current DEA/MPD Task Force Group comprised of DEA Special Agents and nine MPD detectives, which focuses on drugs, violent crime and gang activity.

Most recently, a defendant being investigated by this joint DEA/MPD task force group, was arrested and charged with murdering a DEA confidential source of information and running a Continuing Criminal Enterprise. This individual was responsible for the distribution of over fifty kilograms of cocaine and crack cocaine per month in the Washington area. Twenty-five kilograms of cocaine and jewelry, U.S. currency, and real estate valued at $833,395.00 were seized during the course of this investigation.

This working relationship between the DEA and the MPD has continued to develop during the last several years. The evolution of the MATF and the formation of the Baltimore/Washington High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) in 1994 created a true partnership of Federal, state and local enforcement, including many other participants in addition to DEA and the MPD. A total of eleven MPD officers are now assigned to DEA HIDTA Groups, nine to the previously mentioned Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force and Two to our Interdiction Task Force, which focuses the movement of drugs and drug proceeds through the several mass transit terminals located in the metropolitan area.

DEA also pursues a variety of joint operations on a case-by case basis with the MPD as part of our task force approach to attacking drug-related issues in D.C. For example, eleven DEA Special Agents were recently detailed to MPD to assist the 7th District Homicide Division with drug-related homicide investigations in the Stanton Terrace area of the city. This cooperative effort resulted in over thirty arrests for crack cocaine distribution and drug-related homicide. The individuals in the Stanton Terrace area were responsible for four murders and seven assaults within a six-month time frame.

DEA and the MPD’s Narcotics and Special Investigations Division (NSID) have conducted several "Local Impact Cases" which target violent drug distribution organizations. One example of a successful joint operation that was recently concluded was the investigation into the "4th and L Crew," which operated in the 4th and L streets neighborhood of Washington, D.C. selling crack cocaine and heroin. The 4th and L area had been taken over by this "crew", with open air drug sales taking place throughout the day. This year long investigation resulted in 54 arrests and the seizure of over $64,000 and 11 vehicles.

The DEA and the MPD collaborate not only on investigations, but other areas as well. The DEA Mid-Atlantic Laboratory handles all drug evidence analysis for the MPD. DEA’s interdiction Enforcement Groups housed at the Ronald Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport, regularly work with the MPD interdiction teams at the mass transit stations in Washington.

DEA actively trains MPD narcotic officers in all aspects of drug investigations. Over 300 MPD officers have been trained in the last two years. In addition, during 1997, 12 MPD officers received Clandestine Laboratory Training from DEA.

Everyone recognizes the importance of a strong demand reduction program. If we are ever going to be successful in our struggle against drug trafficking and drug abuse we must continually educate our youth on the horrors of drug abuse. We have an aggressive program which we pursue in concert with the MPD to reach out to the communities. For example, in conjunction with our REDRUM Operation in the East Capitol Dwellings and Greenway communities we worked with the 6th District Police Department Community Services section and the community to enhance youth programs and neighborhood watch groups. This effort garnered the support of the community who provided information that helped arrest and remove the criminal groups that had devastated the neighborhoods with homicides and violent crimes.

DEA and the MPD jointly developed the Network 3 Program in Washington D.C. in 1993. Network 3 links the schools and the community in drug and crime prevention initiatives as well as offers alternative, positive activities for youth and helps develop drug abuse resistance skills. We started the program with three schools in 1993 and now have 12 schools actively involved in the program.

I would like to thank you again for the opportunity to testify at this hearing and hope that we have left you with a clearer understanding of the drug trafficking situation and how our cooperative efforts with the Metropolitan Police Department are working together to apply our resources to attack these drug trafficking groups on an international and local level. I want to assure you DEA is committed to continuing its close working relationship with the Metropolitan Police Department and will make every effort to assist the MPD in its efforts against the drug traffickers who ruin the lives of our children and make our neighborhoods unsafe. With your continued oversight, we will continue to combat this growing threat through joint investigations and efforts that will yield positive results.

I will be happy to answer any questions you might have.

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