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This is an NDIC product. National Drug Intelligence Center
Illinois Drug Threat Assessment
January 2001


Methamphetamine production and abuse are spreading to rural areas in the Southern and Central Districts of Illinois from bordering states such as Missouri, Iowa, and Indiana. Methamphetamine is growing in popularity because it has a lower cost and longer euphoric effect than crack cocaine. Methamphetamine abuse is not common in the Chicago area. Methamphetamine production is a serious safety and environmental concern in Illinois. (See Appendix for responses to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey 2000.) Mexican DTOs transport methamphetamine into Illinois from California and other Southwest Border states.


Methamphetamine abuse is increasing throughout rural areas of Illinois. Law enforcement agencies in the Central and Southern Districts of Illinois report that methamphetamine abuse is on the rise. Methamphetamine abuse is highest in the Central and Southern Districts of the state, according to the Illinois OASA. Methamphetamine's lower cost and longer euphoric effect have attracted some crack users, adding to the user population. Young people, also attracted to the drug's euphoric effects, are increasingly using methamphetamine at rave parties.

Methamphetamine abuse is not common in the Chicago area. Indicators for Chicago showed no substantial increases in the availability and abuse of methamphetamine through the beginning of 2000. Chicago area law enforcement believes that the relative scarcity of methamphetamine in the area is a result of the abundance of cocaine. Methamphetamine may not have affected Chicago drug markets severely because African-American street gangs are more entrenched in the crack markets in their communities. Only two small pockets of methamphetamine abusers have been identified in the Chicago area since 1998, one on the North Side and the other near the Indiana state line.

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Methamphetamine availability and production are increasing in Illinois. Methamphetamine now poses the primary drug threat in the rural areas of the state and is the second most serious threat after crack in urban areas of central Illinois. The rate of increase in the number of methamphetamine laboratories in Illinois parallels previous increases in other states in the region. The number of laboratory seizures in these other states has increased significantly. Illinois State Police statistics for the third quarter of 1999 reveal that there were 77 methamphetamine encounters in 41 Illinois counties, a 208 percent increase from the third quarter of 1998 when 25 encounters were reported in 5 counties. Encounters are defined as abandoned or active methamphetamine laboratories, anhydrous ammonia thefts, dealer arrests, and methamphetamine purchases or seizures. The Illinois State Police expect to seize more than 400 methamphetamine laboratories in 2000, nearly double the number seized in 1999. This increase is due, in part, to law enforcement agencies from Missouri and Iowa aggressively pursuing methamphetamine cookers through targeted legislation, prompting them to relocate.

Illinois Methamphetamine Encounters

Series of maps of Illinois illustrating increasing numbers of methamphetamine encounters in 1997, 1998, and 1999. 


Missouri Men Arrested with Methamphetamine Precursors

Two Poplar Bluff, Missouri, men were arrested for possession of methamphetamine production equipment in the southern Illinois town of Harrisburg. Found in their possession was material used to produce methamphetamine, including a propane torch, latex gloves, batteries, crushed ephedrine, and drain cleaner. The men were first observed near an anhydrous ammonia storage tank.

Source: The Daily Register, 18 May 2000.


Some urban areas such as Rockford, which is supplied by small laboratory operators in western Illinois, report increased availability of methamphetamine. Methamphetamine abuse is rising in areas surrounding Chicago, where Mexican criminal groups are transporting methamphetamine along with other drugs. With the exception of Chicago and the Metro-East area where Mexican-produced methamphetamine predominates, the methamphetamine available to the rest of Illinois is produced in small laboratories in the state.

According to DEA, methamphetamine prices in Chicago range from $7,300 to $10,000 per pound (see Table 7), considerably less than the $20,000 average in the East and Midwest.

Table 7. Methamphetamine Prices, Chicago, 2000


Gram $80$100
Ounce $1,000$1,300
Pound $7,300-$10,000

Source: DEA Chicago Field Division, Trends in the Traffic, 2d Quarter FY2000.

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The potential for violence associated with methamphetamine is significant. Individuals addicted to methamphetamine are unpredictable and will go to great lengths to obtain the drug. Methamphetamine users experience feelings of paranoia, fright, and confusion, and as a result, may become violent. Methamphetamine users are often paranoid and delusional and frequently arm themselves against perceived threats. They may become violent without provocation. In 1998, two men in Albion, Illinois, who were high from a nonstop, 1-week binge on methamphetamine, went on a shooting spree that left five people dead in two states. The victims included a Mennonite farmer, shot as he worked in his fields, and a mother of four, killed after they hijacked her car.



Most methamphetamine is produced in high-volume clandestine laboratories in Mexico and in California. Smaller laboratories, already established in surrounding states, are emerging in Illinois. Although it is not very common in northern Illinois, most methamphetamine in the area is shipped from California, Missouri, and Iowa.

Law enforcement agencies in the Southern and Central Districts report that the production of methamphetamine is increasing in rural and residential areas of Illinois. Laboratory operators are primarily lower- and middle-income Caucasians who function independently and produce relatively small quantities of methamphetamine. In response to the growing methamphetamine problem, four major Illinois state laws regarding methamphetamine possession, manufacturing, and precursor chemicals went into effect in January 2000.

Increased thefts of the fertilizer anhydrous ammonia point to an increase in methamphetamine production in the Central and Southern Districts. Most of the methamphetamine laboratories seized in Illinois involve the Nazi production method. Anhydrous ammonia, which produces a hazardous and volatile environment, is used in the Nazi method to speed the production of methamphetamine. According to DEA, most anhydrous ammonia thieves are addicted to methamphetamine and are willing to go to great lengths to obtain the ammonia, which they sell or exchange for methamphetamine. Law enforcement agencies report a wave of anhydrous ammonia thefts from farms and supply outlets in the Central and Southern Districts. Farmers store anhydrous ammonia as a liquid under pressure in large tanks in their fields. Thieves remove locks from tanks with bolt cutters and use garden or vacuum hoses to siphon the ammonia from the tanks. Since the tanks can hold as much as 100,000 gallons, thefts--often of as little as a gallon or two--frequently go undetected.

Methamphetamine production is a serious safety and environmental concern. The production process creates toxic and hazardous waste that endangers law enforcement personnel, emergency response teams, and the environment. Methamphetamine laboratories may contain a variety of highly flammable toxic chemicals and vapors. Clandestine laboratories produce 5-6 pounds of toxic waste for every pound of methamphetamine produced. Most toxic residue from methamphetamine production is dumped in the local area, contaminating groundwater and killing vegetation. In Adams County, methamphetamine cookers are gathering all the necessary equipment and precursors and cooking on rural, gravel roads and leaving waste in ditches. Government agencies spend millions of dollars every year to clean up laboratory sites.

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Mexican DTOs are transporting methamphetamine into Illinois from California and Mexico. DEA offices in Wyoming report that cities there have become transit centers for multipound quantities of methamphetamine shipped from California to Chicago. Seizures of methamphetamine from private vehicles driven from California and Texas to Illinois have become more common over the past 2 years. In June 1998, the California Highway Patrol seized 13.4 kilograms of methamphetamine from two Mexican males during a traffic stop in Placer County, California. The suspects were en route to Chicago from San Francisco. In October 1998, a California man was indicted on federal drug charges after officers of the Kansas State Patrol seized approximately 12 kilograms of methamphetamine concealed in hidden compartments in his 1985 Jaguar. The suspect was stopped for speeding while traveling from California to Chicago. In 1999, there were several seizures of methamphetamine destined for Chicago from California. For example, an Operation Valkyrie stop in Illinois resulted in the seizure of 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine, and in San Bernardino County, California, 17.2 kilograms were seized--both shipments were destined for Chicago. According to the Chicago HIDTA, methamphetamine from California is also being shipped to Illinois via the mail and other package delivery services.

U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and Border Patrol agents seized 31 kilograms of methamphetamine from a 1995 Mercury Grand Marquis at the checkpoint on U.S. Highway 281, 13 miles south of Falfurrias, Texas. The 29 bundles of suspected Mexico-produced methamphetamine, wrapped in brown tape, were found in a compartment hidden above the gas tank in the front section of the trunk. Several bundles had the letters "CH" written on them. Inside the vehicle was a map that showed a route to Illinois with Chicago circled. A 45-year-old male and a 43-year-old female, both Mexican national residents of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico, were arrested.

Source: EPIC, Daily Summaries, 15 May 2000.

Methamphetamine is also transported from Mexico to Illinois through other states on the Southwest Border. For example, two Mexican nationals were arrested in Texas in May 2000 with 31 kilograms of methamphetamine secreted in a private automobile being driven to Chicago. Methamphetamine transported to Chicago from the Southwest Border area is usually not consumed in the city but is transshipped to rural areas of Illinois and to other states in the region. In August 1998, an individual was arrested and charged with supplying 8 kilograms of methamphetamine from Chicago to users in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Methamphetamine produced in clandestine laboratories in Illinois and surrounding states is transported in private vehicles throughout the region via the highway system. Increased law enforcement pressure in Missouri is forcing methamphetamine laboratory operators to relocate to rural parts of western Illinois, where the methamphetamine is produced and transported back to Missouri for sale.

Hells Angels

Created in 1948, the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC) has grown from a small group to a multinational criminal organization with over 2,000 members. It is estimated that the HAMC has over 100 chapters worldwide. Each chapter maintains a self-governing hierarchy that normally consists of a president, vice president, secretary-treasurer, and sergeant-at-arms.

The HAMC traffics in methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, LSD, heroin, PCP, MDMA, and steroids. In addition to its drug trafficking activities, the HAMC is reportedly involved in prostitution, vehicle and motorcycle theft, fraud, weapons and explosives trafficking, assault and murder for hire, extortion, witness intimidation, and gambling operations.

Source: NDIC, The Hells Angels Outlaw Motorcycle Club: A United States Perspective, 1998.

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Mexican DTOs are now the largest wholesale distributors of methamphetamine in Illinois. Mexican DTOs use the same distribution channels for methamphetamine that are used for cocaine, marijuana, and heroin. Hispanic street gangs are becoming involved in methamphetamine distribution from Illinois to surrounding states. Three members of the Chicago-based Latin Kings were sentenced in June 2000 for their roles in a multistate methamphetamine distribution operation. The methamphetamine, along with cocaine and marijuana, was shipped from Mexico to Illinois for distribution in Illinois and Michigan. Although outlaw motorcycle gangs, primarily the Hells Angels, remain active in retail distribution, they no longer control wholesale distribution of methamphetamine.



Outlaw motorcycle gangs and Hispanic gangs supplied by Mexican DTOs and independent Caucasian dealers who produce their own methamphetamine control the retail distribution of methamphetamine in Illinois. The primary users of methamphetamine in Illinois are whites in rural areas of the state. Methamphetamine sales at the retail level take place predominantly in rural areas where most consumption takes place. While a relatively large quantity of Mexico-produced methamphetamine transits Chicago, there is little evidence that it is being sold at the retail level there.

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