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Kentucky Drug Threat Assessment
Cocaine, both powdered and crack, is increasingly available, frequently abused, and poses the greatest threat to most metropolitan areas in Kentucky. The number of treatment admissions for powdered cocaine in the state fluctuated at high levels from fiscal year 1998 through fiscal year 2000, while the number of admissions for crack increased 31 percent during that period. The distribution and abuse of cocaine are frequently associated with violent crime. Most of the powdered cocaine available in the state is transported from Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas by Mexican and African American criminal groups. Caucasian, Mexican, and African American criminal groups are the dominant distributors of wholesale quantities of powdered cocaine in the state. Caucasian criminal groups and local independent dealers are the primary retail distributors of powdered cocaine in Kentucky, and local African American gangs, among others, also distribute retail quantities. Wholesale distribution of crack cocaine rarely occurs in the state. Retail crack cocaine distribution, once dominated by African American distributors, increasingly involves Caucasian distributors as well. Cocaine sales are usually arranged by phone or in person and take place in private residences, bars, and restaurants.
Cocaine is frequently abused particularly in metropolitan areas, but it also is abused in rural areas of the state. The abuse of crack cocaine remains a problem in urban areas and is becoming increasingly popular in suburban and rural areas.
According to the Kentucky Division of Substance Abuse, treatment admissions for powdered cocaine abuse were at high levels from FY1998 through FY2000, accounting for 16 percent of all drug-related treatment admissions in Kentucky during that time. There were 3,559 powdered cocaine treatment admissions in FY1998, 4,481 in FY1999, and 3,639 in FY2000. Powdered cocaine is abused in the state primarily by middle-class Caucasians.
Crack cocaine treatment admissions increased 31 percent from FY1998 through FY2000. There were 2,238 crack cocaine treatment admissions in FY1998, 2,833 in FY1999, and 2,942 in FY2000. Crack abuse accounted for 10 percent of all drug-related treatment admissions in Kentucky from FY1998 through FY2000. Seventy-seven percent of the patients admitted for crack cocaine abuse were Caucasian, and 60 percent were male. Crack cocaine is abused primarily by lower-income Caucasians.
In Louisville the number of deaths in which cocaine was a factor decreased from 32 in 1997 to 19 in 1999, then increased to 27 in 2000, according to Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) mortality data.
According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), 8.8 percent of Kentucky high school students who responded to the survey in 1999 reported that they had used cocaine at least once in their lifetime; 4.1 percent reported that they had used cocaine in the 30 days preceding the survey.
Availability of powdered and crack cocaine is increasing throughout the state. The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, the Kentucky Justice Cabinet, and the Kentucky Criminal Justice Council report an increase in powdered cocaine availability. In 1998 the Federal-wide Drug Seizure System (FDSS) reported 38.7 kilograms of powdered cocaine seized in Kentucky; in 1999 the amount increased to 59.8 kilograms. Seizures remained high in 2000, with 53.9 kilograms, and preliminary reporting indicates that 50.7 kilograms were seized in 2001. Multikilogram quantities of powdered cocaine are available throughout the state. Authorities in rural and urban areas of western Kentucky report steady increases in crack cocaine availability. In urban areas such as Lexington and Louisville, powdered cocaine is available in ounce to kilogram quantities, and crack cocaine is available in ounce to pound quantities.
Powdered cocaine prices have decreased since 1995, although purity levels have stabilized, indicating a steady supply of cocaine. The DEA Detroit Division reports that in Louisville in 1995, a kilogram of powdered cocaine sold for $25,000 to $30,000 compared with $18,000 to $24,000 in 2000. Similar decreases occurred in Lexington during the same period. According to a survey of Kentucky State Police jurisdictions, powdered cocaine sold for $50 to $150 per gram in 2000. DEA's System to Retrieve Information from Drug Evidence (STRIDE) indicates that from 1997 through 2000, powdered cocaine purity levels ranged from 57 to 63 percent.
The distribution and abuse of cocaine are frequently associated with violent crime. Increases in the level of violent crime correlate with increases in the availability of crack cocaine in Kentucky. Law enforcement officials in Louisville, Owensboro, Bowling Green, Lexington, and Covington reported increases in the number of assaults, robberies, and homicides correlating with increases in cocaine distribution in their cities. In 1999 Louisville's murder rate was the forty-sixth highest among cities in the United States, and the murder rate in Lexington was the ninety-second highest--both of these rates were higher than the murder rate in New York City, and many of the murders were related to the distribution of cocaine.
Coca is not cultivated nor is cocaine produced in Kentucky. Powdered cocaine usually is converted to crack by retail distributors, although law enforcement authorities in Kentucky indicate that abusers are increasingly purchasing powdered cocaine and converting it to crack themselves as dealers attempt to avoid the stricter penalties associated with distributing crack cocaine.
Most of the powdered cocaine available in the state is transported from Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas. In Louisville most of the powdered cocaine is transported from California, Illinois, New York, and Texas by Mexican and African American criminal groups. Lexington authorities report that cocaine often is transported into their jurisdiction by Mexican and African American criminal groups from Chicago and Mexican criminal groups from Arizona, Texas, and California. Additionally, multikilogram quantities of powdered cocaine have been transported to Lexington since 1996. In 2000 law enforcement officials in Lexington made three large seizures of 6, 12, and 13 kilograms of powdered cocaine that were being transported into the area.
Many modes and conveyances are used to transport powdered cocaine into and through Kentucky. The Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) reports that private and commercial vehicles, small trucks, recreational vehicles with hidden compartments, and package delivery services are commonly used. Overland transporters typically use I-64, I-65, and I-71 to transport cocaine into and through Kentucky. Louisville, one of the world's busiest airfreight package delivery hubs, is a major transit point for illicit drugs including cocaine destined for other parts of the nation. Law enforcement reports indicate a significant increase in the number of seizures of packages (most of which were destined for other states) containing cocaine shipped via package delivery services. Some of the advantages of transporting cocaine and other drugs using overnight delivery services include real-time parcel tracking and on-time delivery with minimal human involvement.
Couriers occasionally use commercial aircraft, passenger trains, and buses. Couriers now use commercial aircraft less frequently than other transportation methods possibly due to increased security and improved interdiction methods at airports. Couriers occasionally transport drugs via passenger trains, which connect Chicago with Louisville and Fulton and the U.S. eastern seaboard with Ashland in eastern Kentucky. Couriers also use buses to and from neighboring states.
Crack cocaine is not normally transported in large quantities in Kentucky because greater mandatory minimum sentences are imposed for possession of crack than for possession of powdered cocaine.
Caucasian, Mexican, and African American criminal groups distribute wholesale quantities of powdered cocaine in the state. However, no single group appears to dominate wholesale distribution. According to Louisville Metropolitan Police officials, Mexican criminal groups are the primary wholesale powdered cocaine distributors in their jurisdiction. Mexican and criminal groups distribute wholesale quantities of powdered cocaine in rural Kentucky.
Caucasian criminal groups and local independent dealers are the primary retail distributors of powdered cocaine in Kentucky, and local African American gangs, among others, also distribute retail quantities. Most retail distribution of powdered cocaine occurs in the urban areas of Kentucky. Cocaine sales usually are arranged by phone or in person and take place in private residences, bars, and restaurants.
Wholesale distribution of crack cocaine in Kentucky is very limited due to the mandatory minimum sentences imposed for possession or distribution of crack. However, when wholesale quantities are sold, they are usually sold in urban areas of Kentucky. Retail crack cocaine distribution, once limited to African American distributors, increasingly involves Caucasian distributors. To avoid law enforcement detection, retail crack cocaine distributors are now much more security conscious. They conduct most transactions in private residences and prearranged locations rather than in public.
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