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Maine Drug Threat Assessment
Maine encompasses 35,387 square miles and is the thirty-ninth largest state. It shares the longest state border with Canada--600 miles--and has 228 miles of shoreline. The port of Calais at the Canadian border is one of the top 10 busiest ports of entry (POE) in the United States. Eastport, Portland, and Searsport are Maine's primary seaports, and international airports are located in Bangor and Portland.
Maine is the thirty-ninth most populous state with 1,253,040 residents. The per capita income was $23,002 in 1998--$3,480 lower than the national average. In the same year, 10.4 percent of the people lived in poverty, 2.3 percent below the national average of 12.7 percent.
Interstate 95 is the primary highway in Maine and it provides links to drug sources in Massachusetts and other East Coast states including New York and Florida. Interstate 95 terminates at the New Brunswick, Canada, border in Houlton, Maine. Once through the Houlton POE, Interstate 95 becomes Provincial Road 95 and this highway connects to Trans-Canada 2. Trans-Canada 2 runs north to St. Leonard, New Brunswick, and east to Fredericton, New Brunswick. Maine Routes 1, 11, and 201 link the state to Canada as well, and Route 2 links Maine with New Hampshire.
In a 1997 Health Risk Behaviors Among Maine Youth survey, the percentage of high school students reporting drug use at least once in their lifetime was as follows: over 50 percent used marijuana, 9 percent used cocaine, and 20 percent used other drugs such as LSD, MDMA, psilocybin mushrooms, and heroin. In Maine's Office of Substance Abuse 1997 Prevention Data Report, 42.6 percent of adults used marijuana and 13.8 percent used other illegal drugs at least once in their lifetime. This report also showed that 61.5 percent of students interviewed said marijuana was "easy" or "very easy" to obtain and 31.8 percent said other illegal drugs were "easy" or "very easy" to obtain as well. Further, 54 percent of the students reported they had personal knowledge of adults using drugs in the past year, and 34.3 percent reported they had personal knowledge of adults who sold drugs in the past year.
Drug-related deaths and treatment admissions have been on the rise in Maine. Thirty-one individuals died from drug overdoses in 1998 and there were 20 drug-related suicides. In 1999, there were 39 deaths in each category. Treatment admissions in the heroin category and in the other opiates and synthetics category rose sharply in the past few years (See Table 1.)
Table 1. Maine Primary Drug Treatment Admissions
Source: Maine Office of Substance Abuse.
Cocaine and heroin are the primary drug threats in Maine. Heroin availability and abuse are increasing and Bangor law enforcement and the Maine Office of Substance Abuse rank heroin above cocaine as a drug threat. Marijuana is the drug of choice throughout the state, and the abuse of prescription drugs is common and rapidly escalating. This corresponds to the Maine Crime Report that shows drug arrests increasing despite the overall drop in the crime rate (See Charts 1 and 2.). Maine Drug Enforcement Agency (MDEA) arrests continue to grow as well (See Table 2.)
Chart 1. Maine, Drug Crimes 1995-1998
Source: Maine Department of Public
Safety, Crime in Maine Reports.
Chart 2. Maine, Total Crimes 1995-1998
Source: Maine Department of Public
Safety, Crime in Maine Reports.
Table 2. Maine Drug Arrests FY1998-FY2000
Source: Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, Annual Report, 1998, 1999, 2000.
Figure 1. Maine Drug Enforcement Agency Task Force Offices.
Dominican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) are the primary suppliers of cocaine and heroin in Maine. Dominican DTOs increased their drug trafficking activities in the Northeast during the past decade. In the 1980s, the Colombia-based Cali and Medellin Cartels employed Dominican criminal groups in the United States to distribute crack cocaine at the retail level in New York City. Today, aside from receiving their drug supply from Colombian DTOs, many Dominican traffickers operate independently. Dominican criminal groups operating at the wholesale or retail levels have been reported throughout New England and, in particular, in the Maine cities of Auburn, Augusta, Bangor, Houlton, Lewiston, Portland, and Waterville.
New York City remains the primary distribution center for the bulk of Maine's cocaine and heroin that is distributed by Dominican DTOs. New York City is also the focal point for their command-and-control activities. Cocaine destined for New York City is typically transported from the Caribbean hidden in containerized air and maritime cargo while the heroin is transported from South America by couriers on commercial airlines.
Dominican DTOs also use the Boston area, including the cities of Lowell and Lawrence, as secondary wholesale distribution centers. The MDEA and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) mention these cities in Massachusetts as important distribution centers for the cocaine and heroin market in Maine.
In the Northeast, two types of relationships exist between Dominican dealers operating in smaller towns and the distributors operating in wholesale distribution cities. The relationship is either one of direct command-and-control or one of network (buyer-seller). Dealers may be actual members of the supply organization or may be independent operators. Those working for a distribution organization likely know more about the organization than an independent buyer.
Dominican DTOs are adept at operational security and countersurveillance. They stay abreast of new technologies and use radio transceivers, alarm systems, police scanners, miniature video cameras, and other high-tech equipment to detect and monitor the activities of law enforcement. Dominican criminal groups are proficient at constructing false compartments or traps to hide drugs, guns, and money. Traps, found primarily in vehicles, are mechanical alterations requiring a sophisticated series of procedures to open. Traps can be categorized as transport or personal. Transport traps are large, normally inaccessible to passengers, and usually used for the interstate shipment of cocaine; however, they are also a way to transport currency from drug distribution operations. Personal traps are small, accessible to the passengers, and used in the day-to-day activities of drug traffickers. Personal traps contain items such as weapons, money, and drugs in quantities necessary for daily distribution within a local area.
Dominican DTOs take advantage of passenger van services to transport drugs along the Northeast coast. These van services make several scheduled runs each day from New York City to Boston and Lawrence, Massachusetts, stopping at other cities along the route. Unlike commercial bus lines, van services specialize in transporting passengers door to door. By avoiding bus terminals, Dominican cocaine couriers reduce the risk of law enforcement interdiction.
There are no reports of Dominican money laundering operations taking place in Maine. It is likely that the proceeds from drug transactions are transported south to Massachusetts. Dominican traffickers operating in cities surrounding Boston most likely use wire transfers and currency smuggling to safely move drug profits generated in Maine to the Dominican Republic.
Dominican DTOs commonly begin the process of laundering drug proceeds by using remittance houses (casas de cambio) to wire money directly to the Dominican Republic. Dominican DTOs legitimize drug money in the Dominican Republic through hotels, casinos, import-export firms, auto dealerships, and auto parts stores. Federal law enforcement authorities in Boston report that Dominican drug traffickers are very sophisticated and efficient in their use of wire transfers. Drug proceeds obtained in Boston in the morning can be available for use in the Dominican Republic by the afternoon. Federal law enforcement authorities also report that a Geographical Targeting Order (GTO) for the New York City area, issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury on September 2, 1997, documented significant increases in the number of wire transfers in the Boston area. The order encompassed 15 money transmitters and approximately 3,400 agents serving the Dominican market in New York City.
Currency from drug proceeds is smuggled into the Dominican Republic as well. Dominican traffickers use express package services, couriers (mules), and containerized cargo shipments to smuggle currency to the Dominican Republic. Federal law enforcement authorities report investigations involving Dominican currency couriers in Boston. There have also been investigations involving the use of containerized cargo to transport Dominican drug proceeds from Boston to the Dominican Republic.
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