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NDIC seal linked to Home page. National Drug Intelligence Center
New York Drug Threat Assessment
November 2002


New York

Map of New York showing major highways.

Note: This map displays features mentioned in the report.

New York is the third most populous state in the nation. Almost one-half of its population is concentrated in New York City, the largest, most ethnically diverse urban center in the nation. Individuals from over 100 countries live in the New York metropolitan area. This ethnic diversity, coupled with high population density, helps members of Asian, Colombian, Dominican, Jamaican, Puerto Rican, and other ethnically diverse drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) and criminal groups blend in easily. Other major population centers in New York include Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Yonkers. Much of the remainder of the state is rural and has a more ethnically homogeneous population. According to 2000 U.S. Census Bureau data, approximately 68 percent of New York's population is Caucasian, 16 percent is African American, 6 percent is Asian, and 10 percent is composed of individuals of other races or a combination of races. New York residents of Hispanic or Latino origin are included in the applicable race categories above and compose 15 percent of the population.

Fast Facts
Population (2000)  19 million
U.S. population ranking 3rd
Median household income (2000) $41,605
Unemployment rate (2000) 6.1%
Land area 47,224 square miles
Shoreline 1,850 miles
Capital Albany 
Other principal cities Buffalo, New York, Rochester, Syracuse, Yonkers 
Number of counties 62 
Principal industries Communications, finance, manufacturing, tourism, transportation 

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New York has a wide array of transportation options that may be exploited for illicit activities, making the state an ideal drug transportation hub and transshipment point. Drugs concealed in private vehicles or shipments of legitimate goods transported by truck have an excellent chance of reaching their destinations because of the large volume of traffic moving into and through the state daily. Transporters use an extensive highway system that includes Interstates 81, 84, 87, 88, 90, 95, and 390 to transport drugs into and through New York. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) National Drug Threat Survey 2001, law enforcement officials in at least 24 states identified New York as a supply area for drugs including cocaine, marijuana, and heroin.

Drugs also are transported into and through New York by couriers on trains and buses. Amtrak provides passenger rail service into and through the state. Pennsylvania Station in New York City, which serves as Amtrak's East Coast hub, was the busiest station in Amtrak's system in 2001 with over 8.5 million passenger boardings. Passenger service on Amtrak as well as various commuter rail services, the subway system--the largest in the world--and bus services provide numerous transportation options for drug transporters in New York.

Heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and MDMA regularly are smuggled into New York from Canada. New York has nine land ports of entry (POEs) on a more than 400-mile border with Canada. The POEs along the border are Buffalo/Niagara Falls, Cape Vincent, Alexandria Bay, Ogdensburg, Massena, Fort Covington, Trout River, Chateaugay, and Champlain-Rouses Point. In 1999 over 7.4 million private vehicles and over 16.5 million passengers entered the United States through the Buffalo/Niagara Falls land POE alone.

The St. Regis Mohawk Indian Reservation is a primary entry point for drugs, principally marijuana and cocaine, and other illicit goods smuggled from Canada into New York. This reservation straddles the border between northern New York and the Canadian Provinces of Quebec and Ontario and includes portions of the St. Lawrence Seaway. There are no border checkpoints on the reservation. Most drugs are smuggled through an isolated area of the reservation known as Snye. Members of the Hells Angels outlaw motorcycle gang (OMG) frequently smuggle marijuana, and Asian heroin distributors occasionally smuggle heroin from Canada through the reservation into and through New York. Cocaine and MDMA also are smuggled through the reservation.

DTOs and criminal groups often smuggle illicit drugs to New York on maritime vessels. New York has two international seaports--New York/New Jersey and Buffalo/Niagara Falls. The Port of New York/New Jersey is the largest port complex on the East Coast and the eleventh busiest port in the world for total cargo volume. Over 60 general cargo lines offer regularly scheduled service to all the major markets in the world. In 2001 the port handled 73.5 million tons of cargo, including nearly 2 million containers. The threat of drug smuggling into the Port of New York/ New Jersey is very high, as evidenced by the number of drug seizures. The Port of Buffalo/Niagara Falls, with four general cargo harbors, provides access to the Atlantic Ocean through the St. Lawrence Seaway.

A large volume of air passengers, air cargo, and parcels transit New York daily. John F. Kennedy (JFK) International and La Guardia Airports in New York and Newark International Airport in New Jersey as well as various other international and smaller regional airports provide DTOs and criminal groups, among others, ample opportunities to smuggle drugs including cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and MDMA into and out of the state. JFK International Airport is among the busiest airports in the world, offering passenger and cargo connections to most international cities. In 2001 over 29 million passengers and over 1.4 million tons of air cargo, including mail, passed through JFK International Airport. Additionally, one of the busiest postal facilities in the world is located in New York City; millions of packages are processed there each year.

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Numerous DTOs, criminal groups, and gangs transport and distribute illicit drugs into and through New York. Colombian and Dominican DTOs and criminal groups dominate the wholesale distribution of cocaine and heroin, particularly in New York City. Mexican criminal groups increasingly are using their well-established drug distribution networks to distribute illicit drugs in the state.

Drug Distribution Gangs in New York


Bloods is a violent street gang that was formed in Los Angeles in the 1960s. Gang membership is primarily African American and since the mid-1980s has expanded across much of the United States. The gang is composed of loosely organized factions or sets that typically are turf- or neighborhood-oriented. In New York gangs that identify themselves as Bloods were started independently and generally do not have any connection to the Los Angeles-based gangs. Bloods sets in the Northeast generally identify with United Blood Nation, which began in Rikers Island prison in New York City in the early 1990s. Various sets of United Blood Nation are found throughout the boroughs of New York City and in cities across the state. Bloods gang members have a propensity for violence and have engaged in illicit drug distribution, homicide, robbery, extortion, and automobile theft.

Latin Kings

Latin Kings (Almighty Latin Kings Nation or ALKN) is a predominantly Hispanic gang with two major factions, one in Chicago and the other in the Northeast. These gangs started as social groups in Hispanic communities but later evolved into criminal organizations that distribute illicit drugs and commit violent crimes. Latin Kings is a structured gang that relies on strict, detailed charters to maintain discipline. The Chicago-based Latin Kings is the foundation upon which all Latin Kings gangs are based. The gang controls illicit drug distribution on the North and Southeast Sides of Chicago and has expanded throughout Illinois and the nation. Latin Kings in the Northeast started in the Connecticut prison system in the late 1980s and distributes illicit drugs in New York and surrounding states. Latin Kings has attempted to consolidate the Chicago- and Northeast-based factions.

Mara Salvatrucha

Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) is a violent street gang with a strong presence in New York, California, Maryland, Texas, and Virginia. Original members were refugees from the civil war in El Salvador in the 1980s; many were former soldiers and guerrillas well-trained in weapons and warfare tactics. Current members include second generation Salvadorans as well as other Hispanics. Mara Salvatrucha members distribute illicit drugs, primarily marijuana, and have committed aggravated assault, assault on law enforcement officers, homicide, home invasion, auto theft, and black market weapons violations. Gang members sometimes trade marijuana for weapons, particularly handguns. Some of the weapons are retained for personal use, and some are smuggled to El Salvador.


Ņeta originated as a Hispanic prison gang in the Puerto Rican prison system in the 1970s. Ņeta has many chapters in the U.S. prison system and in many communities, primarily in Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. Ņeta is an organized gang that distributes illicit drugs as its major source of income and also commits extortion, intimidation, robbery, assault, money laundering, black market weapons distribution, and murder.

Jamaican, Puerto Rican, and Asian criminal groups and members of traditional organized crime also distribute significant quantities of illicit drugs in New York.

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Dominican criminal groups often distribute midlevel and retail quantities of cocaine and heroin in the state, and they also supply African American and Hispanic street gangs such as Bloods, Latin Kings, and Ņeta. The number of polydrug seizures in New York has increased. Criminal groups that formerly distributed only one drug increasingly are distributing two or more drugs. Heroin and cocaine frequently are seized at the same time, and MDMA is being seized with other drugs at an increasing rate. Polydrug distribution occurs at both the wholesale and retail levels in New York. By offering more than one drug, dealers are able to increase their client base and their profits.

Marijuana, cocaine, heroin and, to a much lesser extent, methamphetamine frequently are seized in New York. According to Federal-wide Drug Seizure System (FDSS) data from 1998 through 2001, federal law enforcement officials in New York seized 19,528 kilograms of cocaine, 16,677 kilograms of marijuana, 2,011 kilograms of heroin, and 44 kilograms of methamphetamine. (See Table 1.)

Table 1. Drug Seizures in Kilograms, New York, 1998-2001.

  Cocaine Heroin Marijuana Methamphetamine
1998 6,320.3 460.7 2,851.9 0.8
1999 5,030.2 346.9 6,837.0 7.0
2000 4,328.6 401.8 4,274.7 23.5
2001 3,848.6 801.4 2,713.0 12.3
TOTAL 19,527.7 2,010.8 16,676.6 43.6

Source: Federal-wide Drug Seizure System.

The percentage of drug-related federal sentences in New York is comparable to the national percentage. According to U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) data, 40.0 percent of all federal sentences in New York in FY2000 were drug-related, compared with 39.8 percent nationwide. (See Table 2.)

Table 2. Percentage of Drug-Related Federal Sentences and Percentage by Drug Type, New York and United States, FY1996-FY2000.

  All Drugs* Cocaine Heroin Marijuana Methamphetamine
New York
1996 40.4 56.8 33.5 7.8 0.6
1997 39.9 52.8 35.3 8.3 0.2
1998 39.5 54.3 34.4 9.0 0.2
1999 38.9 55.7 32.8 8.8 0.4
2000 40.0 56.4 29.5 8.7 1.2
United States
1996 40.8 52.5 10.3 24.9 9.7
1997 38.7 49.6 9.7 27.5 10.2
1998 40.2 47.3 8.9 30.0 11.4
1999 41.0 45.0 8.0 31.5 12.8
2000 39.8 44.2 7.7 31.2 14.5

 Source: USSC.
*Represents the percentage of federal sentences that are drug-related.

In 2000 illicit drugs frequently were detected among adult male arrestees in New York City and Albany, the two cities in New York that participate in the ADAM Program. According to Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) Program data, in New York City 79.9 percent of adult male arrestees tested positive for abusing at least one illicit substance in 2000. In Albany 64.9 percent tested positive for abusing at least one illicit drug.

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New York has a significant number of drug-related treatment admissions. According to the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), substance abuse-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities in New York increased overall from 193,526 in 1997 to 206,212 in 2001. (See Table 3.) The number of drug- and alcohol-related treatment admissions per 100,000 population in New York (1,065) dramatically exceeded the number per 100,000 nationwide (607) in 1999, the most recent year for which these data are available.

Table 3. Substance Abuse-Related Treatment Admissions to Publicly Funded Facilities, New York, 1997-2001.

  Cocaine Heroin Marijuana Methamphetamine PCP Total*
1997 37,118 29,279 23,453 291 248 193,526
1998 36,713 30,014 25,312 300 219 197,788
1999 33,863 30,227 27,184 336 253 197,521
2000 32,057 31,692 31,183 309 321 201,638
2001 32,259 35,314 32,448 374 336 206,212

Source: TEDS.
*Includes treatment admissions for alcohol abuse.

In both New York City and Buffalo, the two cities participating in the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), the rate per 100,000 of drug-related emergency department (ED) mentions surpassed the nationwide rate. Although the total number of drug-related ED mentions in New York City was lower in 2001 (52,055) than in 1997 (60,250), the number per 100,000 population in New York City exceeded the number per 100,000 population nationwide every year from 1997 through 2001, according to DAWN. In Buffalo drug-related ED mentions fluctuated from 5,285 in 1997 to 5,935 in 2001, even though the number per 100,000 population was higher than the nationwide figure each year during that period.

Table 4. Drug-Related Emergency Department Mentions and Mentions per 100,000, Buffalo and New York City, and Mentions per 100,000, United States, 1997-2001.



New York City Buffalo United States
Mentions Per 100,000 Mentions Per 100,000 Per 100,000
1997 60,250 728 5,285 564 396
1998 58,360 697 4,934 520 408
1999 50,601 598 4,927 514 417
2000 52,636 612 5,374 551 445
2001 52,055 623 5,935 703 460

Source: DAWN.

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Drug-related deaths frequently occur in New York. In the New York metropolitan area, drug-related deaths decreased from 1,082 in 1996 to 729 in 1999, then increased to 924 in 2000, according to DAWN mortality data. Of the drug-related deaths reported in 2000, 713 were drug-induced (drugs were the sole cause of death). On Long Island drug-related deaths fluctuated from 205 in 1996 to 209 in 2000, and 154 of the drug-related deaths reported in 2000 were drug-induced. In the Buffalo metropolitan area, there were fewer drug-related deaths in 2000 (89) than in 1996 (116). Of the drug-related deaths reported in 2000, 41 were drug-induced.

Mortality Data

DAWN mortality data for the New York metropolitan area was provided by Bronx, Kings, New York, Putnam, Queens, and Richmond Counties. Long Island comprises Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The Buffalo metropolitan area comprises Erie and Niagara Counties.

A significant percentage of high school students in New York report abusing illicit drugs. According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), in 1999--the most recent year for which data representative of high school students in the entire state are available--41.3 percent of New York high school students reported having abused marijuana at least once in their lifetime. Also that year 6.8 percent reported having abused cocaine, 6.4 percent reported having abused methamphetamine, and 2.6 percent reported having abused heroin at least once in their lifetime. Additionally, 7.9 percent of high school students in New York reported that they had tried marijuana before age 13, and 25.7 percent had been offered, sold, or given illegal drugs on school property.

The financial impact on New York's government from substance abuse-related costs is significant. In 1998 New York officials spent nearly $8.7 billion on substance abuse-related programs pertaining to justice, education, health, child-family assistance, mental health/developmental disabilities, and public safety. This figure amounted to approximately 18 percent of the total expenditures for the state, the highest percentage in the nation. When factoring in the cost of lost productivity and nongovernmental expenses by private social services, estimates for total substance abuse-related costs are even higher.

The New York metropolitan area provides an ideal environment for money laundering. As one of the world's principal financial centers, the city's economic infrastructure includes many of the world's largest financial institutions as well as several clearinghouse banks, brokerage houses, and international centers for the jewelry and precious metals industries. DTOs and criminal groups frequently exploit this infrastructure to launder illicit drug proceeds.

Colombian and Dominican DTOs and criminal groups distribute significant quantities of illicit drugs in New York and are the primary drug money launderers in the state. These DTOs and criminal groups, among others, launder money using currency exchange houses, stock brokerage houses, casinos, automobile dealerships, insurance companies, trading companies, offshore banks, wire transfer services, shell corporations, and possibly other avenues. They also smuggle bulk shipments of U.S. currency out of New York in private vehicles or commercial trucks or via couriers or in cargo on commercial airlines. The U.S. Customs Service (USCS) reports that $4 billion to $8 billion generated from illicit drug sales is laundered in the New York metropolitan area each year.

Increased security since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, have somewhat affected the transportation of illicit drugs to New York City and possibly the rest of the state. Anecdotal reporting indicates that some drug transporters avoid the bridges and tunnels leading into the city because of heightened security. However, none of the available drug intelligence data indicate significant changes in availability, price, or purity.

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