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North Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Drug Market Analysis
May 2007

Major Markets

The North Texas HIDTA region includes two major drug markets: Dallas/Fort Worth and Oklahoma City. These cities constitute the most significant areas of drug trafficking and abuse in the HIDTA region. Dallas/Fort Worth is a primary drug distribution and transshipment center, while Oklahoma City generally serves as a transshipment center because of its location along several of the busiest drug transportation routes in the country.

Dallas/Fort Worth

Market Overview

Dallas/Fort Worth's role as a leading distribution and transshipment center presents numerous challenges to local law enforcement officials. Mexican DTOs have established operational cells within the metropolitan area that supply the area with large quantities of illicit drugs from Mexico. Mexican DTOs also use these cells to facilitate the transportation and distribution of drug shipments, primarily marijuana, methamphetamine, and cocaine, from Dallas/Fort Worth to drug markets across the country.


The conversion of powder cocaine to crack is ongoing throughout the region. Methamphetamine and marijuana are produced to a limited extent in Dallas/Fort Worth. Methamphetamine production in Dallas/Fort Worth has steadily declined since enactment of statewide legislation limiting the availability of pseudoephedrine, a major precursor chemical used in methamphetamine production. Despite these legislative controls, some local methamphetamine distributors and abusers operate small laboratories, typically producing only enough methamphetamine for personal use or for very limited local distribution. However, they must rely on alternative sources for pseudoephedrine, such as the Internet or out-of-state suppliers. Most local producers realize that they cannot compete with Mexican DTOs that supply the region with low-cost, high-purity ice methamphetamine produced in Mexico and have disbanded their operations.

Local methamphetamine conversion may be more widespread than is currently being reported. A recent investigation revealed that a local resident was converting powder methamphetamine into ice methamphetamine. Law enforcement officials believe that converting powder methamphetamine into ice may be more cost-effective for local distributors than purchasing the drug.

Local outdoor marijuana production is unnecessary and generally unprofitable because of the large quantities of inexpensive Mexican marijuana available in Dallas/Fort Worth. However, marijuana production does take place, particularly marijuana produced from cannabis cultivated at indoor grow sites. Law enforcement officers sporadically seize hydroponic cannabis grows in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. These grows, which are occasionally linked to Asian DTOs and criminal groups, produce limited amounts of marijuana and are able to support only limited local distribution. Officials in Plano, Texas, are reporting the emergence of a new type of marijuana in the local market called "popcorn." This type of marijuana is considered a "tweener" marijuana because the potency and price of the drug fall between those of commercial-grade and hydroponic marijuana; however, it is unknown if the drug is produced locally.

Crack cocaine conversion is common in the Dallas/Fort Worth area; the drug is distributed from Dallas/Fort Worth to markets throughout the HIDTA region. Local African American criminal groups dominate crack cocaine conversion; however, an increasing number of crack abusers are now converting powder cocaine to crack. According to law enforcement reporting, some crack cocaine abusers now purchase powder cocaine from suppliers in Dallas and Houston, transport the drug to their private residences, and convert the powder cocaine to crack.

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Dallas/Fort Worth is a primary transshipment point for methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana en route from Mexico to drug markets throughout the country. Law enforcement officials report that the load sizes for cocaine and methamphetamine shipments are increasing and that more large-quantity drug loads are being seized as compared with past years.

Mexican DTOs dominate drug transportation into and through the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Mexican DTOs that are involved in drug transportation into the Dallas/Fort Worth area are highly sophisticated. They use multiple transportation cells and far-reaching networks that facilitate the smuggling of drugs from Mexico and transportation into the metropolitan area and beyond. Transportation cells of Mexican DTOs often specialize in a particular component of the process, such as transportation through Mexico, cross-border smuggling, or transportation from the border area to Dallas/Fort Worth. In addition to transporting illicit drugs on their own behalf, Mexican DTOs contract with other transportation groups to transport illicit drugs to and from Dallas in an attempt to insulate their organizations from law enforcement detection. According to DEA, Mexican DTOs and transportation organizations are hiring African American tractor-trailer operators to transport cocaine shipments from the U.S.-Mexico border area to Dallas and to drug markets across the country.

Dallas/Fort Worth receives drug shipments from most Southwest Border POEs; however, Laredo and El Paso are the primary entry points for drug shipments destined for the region. During the past year, law enforcement officers have reported increasing amounts of illicit drugs transported from California and Arizona to Dallas. Houston also is a source for significant quantities of illicit drugs, primarily cocaine, that are distributed in Dallas/Fort Worth and surrounding communities.


Dallas/Fort Worth is a primary drug distribution center in the southwestern United States. The metropolitan area is a regional and national distribution center for wholesale quantities of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine that are supplied by traffickers in Mexico and destined for the Dallas/Fort Worth area and other national-level markets. Additionally, drug traffickers from across the country travel to Dallas/Fort Worth to purchase illicit drugs from local suppliers.

Mexican DTOs control wholesale distribution of most cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine that enter Dallas/Fort Worth. Mexican DTOs are also the primary suppliers of illicit drugs to the area's midlevel and retail distributors. Many midlevel and retail distributors are increasingly conducting business with multiple Mexican trafficking groups, thereby increasing their access to the types of drugs that they have not distributed in the past. As such, distribution at the midlevel and retail level is largely polydrug in nature. The trend toward polydrug distribution could result in the emergence of serious drug abuse issues as new drug types are introduced into different user communities.

Drug traffickers in Dallas increasingly use the Internet to facilitate pharmaceutical drug distribution, particularly through Internet pharmacies. These pharmacies frequently operate numerous Internet sites that redirect users to a central web site, where a network of web site operators and complicit doctors and pharmacists fill orders for prescription drugs. In order to limit potential law enforcement scrutiny, an increasing number of Internet pharmacies list themselves as "closed door pharmacies," which are supposed to distribute pharmaceutical drugs to a very limited clientele, such as nursing homes or prisons. However, these Internet pharmacies illicitly distribute pharmaceutical drugs nationwide. Law enforcement officials in Dallas also report the increased use of social networking web sites in drug distribution.

The distribution of diverted pharmaceuticals among Dallas teenagers is becoming increasingly common. Some teenagers steal prescription drugs from their parents' medicine cabinets and abuse the drugs themselves or distribute them throughout their peer groups. Dallas teenagers also trade, sell, and abuse different types of pharmaceutical drugs at parties, referred to as pharma parties.

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Drug-Related Crime

Although statistical reporting is unavailable, law enforcement officials in the Dallas/Fort Worth area indicate that drug-related violent crime has been stable over the past 2 years, with the exception of Tyler, where officials report that drug-related violent crime increased from 2005 to 2006. The distribution and abuse of illicit drugs fuel violent crime and property crime throughout Dallas/Fort Worth. Abusers of crack cocaine and ice methamphetamine frequently commit assaults and shootings to protect their drug operations; they also commit home invasions and robberies to support their drug addictions.

Gang-related violence is a threat to the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Most violence is related to feuds among individual gang members and is not gang-on-gang violence, as in other large cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles. Violent confrontations between gang members are often the result of disputes over drug distribution. Gang members periodically commit crimes such as robberies and assaults against nongang members.


The fastest-growing drug threat to Dallas/Fort Worth is methamphetamine abuse. The drug's high purity, low cost, and intense, long-lasting physiological effects entice many individuals, including abusers of other drugs, to try methamphetamine. This trend is most prevalent among the area's African American crack cocaine abusers; many now abuse ice methamphetamine in addition to or in place of crack cocaine.

The abuse of diverted pharmaceuticals is prevalent throughout the local teenage and young adult population and may be increasing. Pharmaceutical abuse is common among high school students in Dallas/Fort Worth. They frequently take the drugs before arriving at school or at home during their lunch breaks. Also contributing to local teenage pharmaceutical abuse is the tendency of teens to distribute these drugs among their friends and peer groups. The Dallas Police Department (DPD) is also reporting limited abuse of fentanyl by teenagers, generally in the form of Actiq, commonly referred to as fentanyl "lollipops."

The abuse of Mexican black tar heroin has resurfaced during the past year in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, particularly in Collin County. Abuse of the drug is increasing among middle-class residents who travel from the suburbs or outlying communities to Dallas and Fort Worth to purchase the drug. Twenty heroin overdoses and seven heroin-related deaths were reported in Collin County in 2006, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Law enforcement officers also report that heroin distribution and abuse are increasing among teenagers and young adults in Frisco.

Abuse of "cheese" heroin--a combination of Mexican black tar heroin and Tylenol PM (acetaminophen and diphenhydramine HCl)--is increasing in the Dallas area. This drug combination is popular among Hispanic adolescents, but abuse by Caucasian students is increasing. Once primarily concentrated at northwest campuses within the Dallas Independent School District (DISD), cheese heroin has been encountered throughout the entire school district. As of April 2007, at least 11 DISD schools, including middle schools and high schools, reported the presence of this drug combination on their campuses. Neighboring school districts, including Garland, Mesquite, and Coppell, also report the presence of cheese heroin in their districts; all three districts report student deaths related to cheese heroin. Local officials attribute the deaths of at least 17 Dallas County teenagers since 2005 to cheese heroin; eight of that number were DISD students. Local treatment providers report an increase in treatment admissions for the drug, especially among children and adolescents. Arrests for cheese heroin are also increasing dramatically; DISD officials report 122 cheese heroin-related arrests so far this school year, an 80 percent increase from last year. While no deaths outside Dallas County have been attributed to cheese heroin, officials in Grapevine, Tarrant County, report the presence of cheese heroin in that community. In addition, the DPD reports that the drug is abused by the general public in Dallas. Cheese heroin typically has a light tan, powdery or granular appearance, is often found folded inside torn pieces of paper, and is snorted by abusers. The low cost of cheese heroin (sometimes as low as $2) makes it affordable to most students and may facilitate its expansion beyond Dallas County and into surrounding North Texas counties.

Illicit Finance

Drug traffickers launder proceeds generated through drug transactions in Dallas/Fort Worth primarily by consolidating and transporting the proceeds in bulk to Mexico for eventual repatriation. Traffickers also use the area as a consolidation point for bulk currency shipments from other regions of the country. Traffickers transport smaller bulk cash shipments to Dallas for consolidation before the shipments are transported to the U.S.-Mexico border area, where they are eventually smuggled into Mexico.

Drug traffickers also use front companies, trucking companies, structured bank deposits, wire transfers, real estate, and the purchase of luxury items to launder drug proceeds in Dallas/Fort Worth. Asian DTOs frequently launder illicit drug proceeds through the operation of nail salons throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Additionally, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reports that the operators of locally based Internet pharmacies often launder drug proceeds by structuring bank deposits into local banks and then transferring the funds to offshore bank accounts.

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Oklahoma City

Market Overview

Mexican DTOs are increasing their presence in Oklahoma City; many are establishing transportation and distribution cells in Oklahoma City to aid their drug trafficking operations. Mexican DTOs control the drug market in Oklahoma City and dominate the wholesale and midlevel distribution of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine. Mexican traffickers also use Oklahoma City as a principal transit and transshipment location for drugs originating in Mexico and the Southwest Border region that are intended for distribution in other U.S. drug markets.


Illicit drug production is limited in Oklahoma City and consists primarily of small-scale methamphetamine production, cannabis cultivation, and crack cocaine conversion.

The Oklahoma City area has experienced a significant decline in local methamphetamine production and laboratory seizures since 2004, when the state of Oklahoma enacted legislation limiting the availability of pseudoephedrine. The Oklahoma City Police Department reported a decline in methamphetamine laboratory seizures from 54 in 2004 to 7 in 2006. According to data from the National Clandestine Laboratory Seizure System (NCLSS), laboratory seizures in Oklahoma and Cleveland Counties--the counties in which Oklahoma City is located--declined from 65 in 2004 to 8 in 2006.1 (See Table 3 in Drug Overview section.) While methamphetamine production continues in Oklahoma City, most methamphetamine is produced in rural areas outside the city.

Cannabis cultivation in the Oklahoma City area is limited as a result of the abundance of Mexican marijuana in the local market, although DEA reports an increase in local indoor and outdoor cannabis cultivation occurred in 2004 and 2005. Oklahoma City is one of the primary locations in the state for crack cocaine conversion. African American criminal groups purchase powder cocaine from Mexican dealers operating locally or in Dallas and convert it into crack for local distribution.


Oklahoma City is a key transit area and transshipment center for Mexican drug traffickers because of its location at the intersection of Interstates 35, 40, and 44, three of the principal drug transportation routes in the Southwest. Law enforcement officers in Oklahoma City report that it is common for multihundred- to thousand-pound quantities of marijuana and multihundred-pound quantities of cocaine to transit these cities along I-40 and I-44 en route to drug markets in the central and eastern United States. As a result, significant quantities of illicit drugs continue to be seized through highway interdiction operations. (See Table 4.)

Table 4. Drug (in Pounds) and Currency Highway Interdiction Seizures in Oklahoma County, 2005-2006
Drug 2005 2006
Marijuana 7,153.39 4,015.32
Cocaine (powder) 106.48 751.97
Heroin 70.10 0.00
Methamphetamine 54.54 20.02
Currency $2,875,097 $1,457,902

Source: Central Oklahoma Metro Interdiction Team.


Mexican DTOs control the wholesale drug market in Oklahoma City, supplying wholesale and midlevel quantities of illicit drugs to other distributors within and outside the area. Their control over the local market and the large quantities of drugs that they supply to Oklahoma City have resulted in a decrease in local drug prices, according to local law enforcement officials. Increased drug distribution in Oklahoma City most likely results from Mexican control of the local market and local dealers, who have become polydrug distributors in nature. Local law enforcement officials report that African American drug dealers are continuing to become more involved in local methamphetamine distribution. The trend toward polydrug distribution allows dealers to increase profits by distributing drugs to a wider drug abuser community.

Drug-Related Crime

A significant amount of the property crime and violent crime that take place in Oklahoma City is drug-related. Methamphetamine abusers in Oklahoma City often commit property crimes, such as burglary, to support their drug addictions. The level of drug-related violent crime has remained consistent during the past year, according to local law enforcement officials. Competition among various local distributors, including Mexican DTOs and street gangs, is most likely a cause of violent crime in the area, in which gang- and drug-related rivalries result in assaults, drive-by shootings, and homicides.


Ice methamphetamine abuse is becoming more widespread in Oklahoma City and throughout the entire state. Caucasians have historically been the primary abusers of ice methamphetamine in Oklahoma City; however, ice methamphetamine abuse is expanding into other ethnic user communities. In recent years African American crack cocaine dealers have begun distributing ice methamphetamine--a practice that has resulted in increased ice methamphetamine abuse in Oklahoma City's African American communities.

The abuse of diverted pharmaceuticals is prevalent in Oklahoma City, particularly among adolescent abusers. In this age group, hydrocodone products are the primary pharmaceutical drug of abuse. Local officials report that abusers use common diversion techniques, including stealing pharmaceutical drugs from family members and using fraudulent prescriptions as well as forged and altered prescriptions, to obtain pharmaceutical drugs.

The extent of drug abuse in the six North Texas HIDTA Oklahoma counties is evident in the high number of drug-related deaths reported in the state. According to the State Medical Examiner, the number of drug-related deaths remained relatively consistent in these six counties from 2005 (287 deaths) to 2006 (288 deaths). Oklahoma County reported the second-highest number of drug-related deaths in 2005 and 2006 for these counties and showed an increase in drug deaths during that time. (See Table 5.)

Table 5. Drug-Related Deaths in North Texas HIDTA Oklahoma Counties, 2005-2006
County 2005 2006
Cleveland 16 24
Comanche 9 7
Muskogee 6 8
Oklahoma 88 107
Sequoyah 7 9
Tulsa 161 133

Source: Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

Illicit Finance

Wholesale distributors in Oklahoma City smuggle most of their drug proceeds to Mexico in bulk, while midlevel and retail distributors typically launder drug proceeds through businesses such as restaurants and auto repair shops. Drug traffickers from other areas of the country use Oklahoma City as a transit area for bulk cash shipments derived from the distribution of illicit drugs. Traffickers from states such as Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania transport illicit drug proceeds through Oklahoma City en route to destinations in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas and, ultimately, Mexico. Seizure data reveal that law enforcement officers in Oklahoma City have seized bulk currency shipments ranging from $10,000 to several hundred thousand dollars; a few seizures have amounted to over $1 million. Bulk currency shipments are frequently concealed in luggage or in hidden compartments in private and commercial vehicles; these vehicles are often the same ones used by traffickers to transport illicit drugs from the Southwest Border area through Oklahoma City en route to other areas of the country.

Mexican drug traffickers also use money transmitters to transfer their drug proceeds to the Southwest Border area. There, the funds are often collected and bulk-shipped across the border to Mexico. Many money transmitters in the Oklahoma City area cater to the growing Hispanic immigrant community, which uses these services to wire money to relatives in Mexico and other Latin American countries.

End Note

1. The National Clandestine Laboratory Seizure System (NCLSS) is a voluntary reporting system; data are continually updated but may not reflect all methamphetamine laboratories seized.

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