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Arizona High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Drug Market Analysis
May 2007


Mexican DTOs are the primary wholesale distributors of illicit drugs in the Arizona HIDTA region. Law enforcement reporting indicates that their influence over the distribution of wholesale quantities of illicit drugs, primarily methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine, and Mexican black tar heroin, is well entrenched and, in most cases, increasing. Additionally, law enforcement and intelligence reporting indicates that Mexican DTOs and criminal groups continue to contract with Colombian DTOs to transport and distribute cocaine on behalf of the Colombian DTOs and continue to purchase cocaine outright from Colombian DTOs. These Mexican DTOs then transport the cocaine through Arizona for distribution locally and throughout the United States.

Explosive Resembles Ice Methamphetamine

Law enforcement officers in Phoenix recently seized an explosive that resembled ice methamphetamine. In May 2006 officials with the Phoenix HIDTA Clandestine Methamphetamine Laboratory Task Force discovered a substance that they originally thought was ice methamphetamine while conducting a consent search subsequent to an illicit drug-related "knock-and-talk." The Department of Public Safety (DPS) Bomb Unit performed a burn test on a small sample of the substance, and the substance sparked and then ignited. They then conducted a similar test on a larger sample, and the substance exploded. The Bomb Unit contacted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which, along with the DPS laboratory, determined that the substance was triacetone triperoxide (TATP).a This was the first TATP encountered by law enforcement officers in Arizona.

Source: Drug Enforcement Administration Phoenix.

a. According to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, "acetone peroxide (triacetone triperoxide, peroxyacetone, TATP, TCAP) is an organic peroxide and a primary high explosive. It takes the form of a white crystalline powder with a distinctive acrid smell."

Mexican traffickers distribute wholesale quantities of methamphetamine in the area; however, recent law enforcement reporting suggests that methamphetamine availability in Arizona has decreased temporarily for these reasons: successful law enforcement operations in the United States and Mexico, legislation in Mexico pertaining to the importation of pseudoephedrine into that country, and changes in smuggling routes. It is likely, given Mexican DTOs' dominance over drug trafficking in the Southwest and their ability to quickly adapt, that they will overcome this setback and rejuvenate their supply based on the high and increasing demand for the drug in the United States. It is also likely that they will take extra precautions--possibly by decreasing the quantities that they distribute each time, by concealing the drug further, or by compartmentalizing production more frequently--to reduce possible losses.

Law enforcement reporting further reveals that Mexican DTOs have significantly increased the amount of Mexican black tar heroin that they distribute in and from the Arizona HIDTA region, increasing availability of the drug in many parts of the country. Most of the heroin is distributed by family-based Mexican traffickers who reside in the Phoenix and, to a lesser extent, Tucson areas. They maintain such control over heroin distribution that they have increased the availability of Mexican black tar heroin east of the Mississippi River and are the main suppliers of heroin to traffickers throughout the Pacific Northwest.

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