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National Drug Intelligence Center
Maryland Drug Threat Assessment
Heroin poses the most serious drug threat to Maryland. Rates of abuse are high, particularly in Baltimore, as evidenced by the significant number of treatment admissions, ED mentions, and deaths in which heroin was a factor. Heroin is readily available in urban parts of the state and is becoming increasingly available in suburban and rural areas. The availability of high purity heroin that can effectively be snorted or smoked, primarily from South America, is a particular concern to the state's law enforcement professionals and healthcare providers. While heroin abuse typically is not associated with violent crime, violence related to the distribution of heroin is a serious problem in Baltimore. Maryland-based local independent dealers and Dominican and Colombian criminal groups based in New York City and Philadelphia are the dominant transporters of heroin into Maryland. Dominican and Colombian criminal groups based in New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore and Maryland-based local independent dealers dominate wholesale distribution of heroin in Maryland. Local independent dealers and loosely organized gangs dominate retail heroin distribution throughout the state. In Baltimore loosely organized neighborhood gangs consisting primarily of African American members conduct most of the retail heroin distribution.
Maryland, particularly Baltimore, has one of the most serious heroin abuse problems in the nation. Rates of heroin abuse continue to increase throughout the state, and rates of abuse in Baltimore have reached very high levels. According to the Maryland Drug Early Warning System Drug Scan, a statewide, county-level project designed to obtain perceptions of local drug trends from substance abuse professionals, heroin is a primary drug of abuse in Baltimore where there are an estimated 45,000 heroin addicts.
Heroin-related admissions to publicly funded treatment facilities have increased in Maryland since 1994. TEDS data indicate that the number of heroin-related treatment admissions increased from 11,741 in 1994 to 15,823 in 1999. (See Table 1 in Overview section.) The number of heroin-related treatment admissions per 100,000 population (368) ranked Maryland fifth in the nation in 1999. According to the Community Epidemiology Work Group, 48 percent of all treatment admissions in Baltimore were heroin-related in 1999. In Baltimore, males accounted for over 57 percent of heroin-related admissions, individuals aged 35 or younger accounted for 53.6 percent, and African Americans accounted for 62.1 percent. City health officials attribute increases in heroin-related treatment admissions in Baltimore to the increased availability of treatment facilities. Statewide funding for treatment facilities increased from $18 million in 1996 to $46 million in 2000.
The magnitude of the heroin abuse problem in Maryland is evidenced by the number of ED mentions, which remains high despite a decrease in 2000. According to DAWN, the number of ED mentions in Baltimore declined from 6,999 in 1999 to 5,405 in 2000. In 2000 the highest rates of heroin-related ED mentions in the nation were reported in Newark, Baltimore, and Chicago.
According to mortality data from DAWN, in the Baltimore metropolitan area the number of deaths in which heroin/morphine was a factor increased from 302 in 1996 to 451 in 1999, then decreased to 397 in 2000. In 2000, 27 deaths were heroin/morphine-induced (overdoses), and the remaining deaths were heroin/morphine-related (heroin/morphine was a contributing factor but not the sole cause of death). Most of the deaths (292) in which heroin/morphine was a factor occurred in the city of Baltimore.
The availability of high purity heroin at the retail level is at least partly responsible for the number of fatal heroin overdoses in Maryland. Inexperienced new abusers who have not developed a tolerance often overdose because of the high purity. Even experienced abusers may misjudge their dosage and overdose because of the higher purity of the heroin.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the high purity heroin affects newly released prison inmates who were heroin abusers before their incarceration. They often revert to their old habits, not realizing that the heroin they purchase is now much more potent than before.
Heroin abuse among young people in Maryland decreased slightly from 1998 through 2001. The 2001 Maryland Adolescent Survey, modeled after the Monitoring the Future study, reports a slight decline from 1998 through 2001 in the percentage of sixth, eighth, tenth, and twelfth grade students who reported having abused heroin in the past 30 days. This decline followed an increase from 1996 through 1998 for sixth, eighth, and tenth grade students. Heroin abuse among twelfth grade students declined steadily from 1996 through 2001.
Heroin abuse is prevalent throughout most areas in Maryland. Heroin was a primary drug of abuse, an emerging drug of abuse, or a drug of concern in 18 of 23 counties and Baltimore in 2000, according to the Maryland Drug Early Warning System Drug Scan.
Heroin is readily available in urban areas in Maryland, especially in Baltimore, and is increasingly available throughout suburban and rural parts of the state. In response to the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) National Drug Threat Survey 2001, the Maryland State Police reported that the availability of heroin is increasing in Maryland and is spreading from cities to suburban areas. South American heroin is the type most commonly available in Maryland; however, Southeast Asian and Southwest Asian heroin occasionally are available. The availability of Mexican heroin is limited.
According to DEA, from the first quarter of FY2001 through the first quarter of FY2002, there was little change in heroin prices in the Baltimore area. During that time, heroin sold for $10 to $20 per bag. The average price of a gram decreased slightly from $105 to $102 while the price of an ounce remained $2,800. Wholesale prices decreased slightly from $92,500 per kilogram in the first quarter of FY2001 to $90,000 in the first quarter of FY2002.
Heroin purity levels vary throughout Maryland. According to DEA's Domestic Monitor Program (DMP)--a heroin purchase program designed to identify purity, price, and source of heroin at the retail level--in the first quarter of FY2001 (October through December 2000) heroin purity levels ranged from less than 10 percent to 96 percent in the Baltimore area. According to the Middle Atlantic-Great Lakes Organized Crime Law Enforcement Network (MAGLOCLEN), heroin purity levels ranged from a low of 16 percent to a high of 94 percent statewide in 2001. Highly pure (80% to 98%) heroin is sold as rock-like chunks in glass vials. High purity heroin is purchased predominantly by younger abusers who snort the drug; long-term abusers who inject the drug continue to purchase low purity heroin. The Maryland State Police reported in 2000 that low purity heroin was being injected and high purity heroin was being snorted.
The number of heroin-related investigations has increased in Maryland. Maryland state and local law enforcement respondents to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey 2001 reported that the number of heroin-related investigations increased over the previous year (1999). From October 1998 through June 2001, 50 of 173 Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigations involved heroin. OCDETF investigations often involve more than one drug type.
The amount of heroin seized by federal law enforcement agencies remained relatively stable from 1998 to 2000; however, the number of highway seizures decreased from 1999 to 2000. According to Federal-wide Drug Seizure System (FDSS) data, federal law enforcement agencies in Maryland seized 10 kilograms of heroin in FY1998, 9.7 kilograms in FY1999, and 10.1 kilograms in FY2000. EPIC Operation Pipeline data indicate a decrease in the number of highway seizures in Maryland from 15 in FY1999 to 7 in FY2000.
Maryland law enforcement agencies report an increase in heroin-related arrests since 1998. The Maryland State Police reported a 51 percent increase in heroin-related arrests from 1998 to 1999. Maryland law enforcement respondents to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey 2001 reported that the number of arrests for heroin-related violations increased over the previous year (1999).
The percentage of heroin-related federal drug sentences in Maryland was higher than the national percentage in FY2000. According to the USSC, 17.3 percent of drug-related federal sentences in Maryland in FY2000 were heroin-related compared with 7.7 percent nationwide.
In Maryland heroin is packaged using a variety of methods. In 2001 the Washington/Baltimore HIDTA reported that most of the heroin available in Baltimore was sold in gelatin capsules, which are often referred to by the color of the capsule. In 2000 the Maryland State Police reported that glassine bags stamped with various brand names were available. In Salisbury heroin traditionally has been packaged in blue, waxed paper bags, as is heroin sold in Philadelphia, a distribution center for heroin sold in Maryland. Heroin packaged in glass vials also was seized in Salisbury in 2000. The Maryland State Police reported that glass vials of heroin are common in Baltimore, and the emergence of glass vial packaging in Salisbury may indicate a change in the source of Salisbury's heroin supply.
While the distribution and abuse of heroin are not frequently associated with violent crime in most parts of Maryland, a substantial amount of violence has occurred in the Baltimore area. In February 2002, 12 individuals who operated a heroin and cocaine distribution network were indicted for five homicides; one of the victims was a young girl who was killed when gunmen opened fire on a crowd of 200 people. Heroin distributors at all levels in Baltimore commit violent crimes to protect their turf and to expand their drug distribution operations. Dominican criminal groups in the region commit violent crimes to assert and maintain dominance over drug distribution territories and to control retail distributors. Heroin abusers frequently commit property crimes--including random theft, credit card fraud, and burglary--to support their addictions.
Opium is not cultivated nor is heroin produced in Maryland. Heroin is produced primarily in four source regions: South America, Mexico, Southeast Asia, and Southwest Asia. Most of the heroin available in Maryland is produced in South America, although limited amounts from Southeast and Southwest Asia are available. Heroin commonly is "milled" at the wholesale level. The Baltimore County Narcotics Unit reports that some heroin dealers are milling heroin in the county and transporting it to the city of Baltimore for distribution.
Maryland-based local independent dealers and Dominican and Colombian criminal groups based in New York City and Philadelphia are the dominant transporters of heroin into Maryland. These independent dealers and criminal groups primarily travel via private or rental vehicles on interstate highways or via public transportation (buses and trains). Heroin also is transported into Maryland via commercial aircraft and maritime vessels.
Criminal groups generally employ couriers to transport heroin into the state, and local independent dealers who distribute wholesale quantities in Maryland typically travel to primary distribution centers such as New York City and Philadelphia to purchase heroin from Dominican criminal groups. They then transport the drug back to Maryland. Miami is also a distribution center for wholesale quantities of heroin available in Maryland but to a far lesser extent than New York City or Philadelphia. Heroin abusers and independent retail distributors throughout Maryland travel to Baltimore, Salisbury, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., to purchase small quantities of heroin for personal use or for local retail distribution.
Couriers primarily transport heroin into and through the state in automobiles and buses traveling on I-95. These couriers sometimes use alternate, less traveled routes to avoid highway interdiction. These couriers travel US 13 to US 50 and then I-97 to Baltimore, or follow US 13 to areas along the Eastern Shore. According to EPIC Pipeline and Convoy data, Interstates 97, 495, and 695; US 140; and SR-24 also are used to transport heroin into and within the state.
Heroin also is smuggled directly to Maryland by couriers on commercial airline flights. West African criminal groups, primarily Nigerian, employ couriers to transport heroin to Baltimore/Washington International Airport. The couriers take advantage of international flights such as twice-weekly commercial flights from Ghana. The couriers transport heroin either in or on their bodies or in their luggage (which allows for the transportation of larger quantities). On August 20, 2000, U.S. Customs Service (USCS) inspectors at Baltimore/Washington International Airport arrested a Nigerian national who had ingested 82 pellets containing a total of 1 kilogram of heroin. On August 27, 2000, a male British national who had ingested 78 pellets containing 936 grams of heroin also was arrested at Baltimore/Washington International Airport. He had arrived on a Ghana Airways flight from Nigeria.
Heroin has been smuggled into Maryland through the Port of Baltimore but to a much lesser extent than by land or air. The DEA Washington Division reports that small quantities of Southwest Asian heroin are transported to the Baltimore area through the Port of Baltimore. In 1998 the USCS seized multigram quantities of Southwest Asian heroin from crew members aboard Pakistani ships entering the Port of Baltimore. The heroin in these shipments usually was destined for distribution in Pakistani communities in Prince George's and western Anne Arundel Counties.
Dominican and Colombian criminal groups based in New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore and Maryland-based local independent dealers dominate the wholesale distribution of heroin in Maryland. Some Dominican criminals have established part-time residency in the Maryland cities where they distribute heroin. Wholesale heroin distribution in Maryland is centered in Baltimore. Local independent dealers may distribute heroin at the wholesale level in the counties around the city of Baltimore; however, the Maryland State Police indicate there are no known wholesale distributors outside the Baltimore area.
Baltimore serves as the primary distribution city for heroin in Maryland. Salisbury, located along major smuggling route US 13, serves as a secondary distribution city for eastern Maryland. Law enforcement officials have identified a link between Latin Kings gang members from New York City and retail distributors of heroin in Salisbury. Salisbury officials have seized bags of heroin bearing stamps that resemble those sold by Latin Kings in New York City.
Local independent dealers and loosely organized, largely African American gangs are the dominant retail distributors of heroin in Maryland. According to the Baltimore City Narcotics Unit, many retail distributors purchase heroin in wholesale quantities, transport it to private residences in the Baltimore County suburbs, cut and package it into retail quantities, and transport the heroin to Baltimore city for retail distribution. Many abusers also distribute heroin at the retail level, and those living in suburban and rural areas of Maryland often travel to Baltimore, Salisbury, Philadelphia, or Washington, D.C., to purchase heroin for personal use and further distribution. They often make large purchases to obtain bulk discounts and then sell the excess to other distributors and abusers. Some abusers in Cecil County reportedly travel to Philadelphia, purchase 12 to 13 bags of heroin for approximately $100, use 2 to 3 bags themselves, and distribute the remainder to their friends for as much as $20 a bag.
In Baltimore loosely organized neighborhood gangs, primarily composed of African American members, conduct most of the retail heroin distribution, often in open-air environments. The location of an open-air drug market determines its customer base. Neighborhood residents purchase heroin at drug markets located in housing projects. Suburban residents seeking easy access to the drug and a convenient route out of the city purchase heroin at drug markets located along main corridors.
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