ARCHIVED Skip nagivation.To Contents     To Previous Page     To Next Page     To Publications Page     To Home Page
To Home Page. National Drug Intelligence Center
Midwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Drug Market Analysis
May 2007

Market Areas


The Midwest HIDTA contains several primary drug market areas, including the Kansas City, Omaha, and St. Louis metropolitan areas, and a number of secondary markets including Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Fargo/Grand Forks, Sioux City/Sioux Falls, Springfield, and Wichita. (See Figure 3.) Individual market discussions are intended to augment the overall discussion of drug trafficking and abuse in the Midwest HIDTA region, highlighting localized trends and deviations. The general drug situation in the Midwest HIDTA region applies to an individual market unless otherwise stated.

Figure 3. Primary and secondary drug markets.
Map showing the primary and secondary drug markets within the Midwest HIDTA region.

To Top      To Contents

Primary Markets

Kansas City Metropolitan Area, Kansas/Missouri

The Kansas City metropolitan area includes Cass, Clay, Jackson, and Platte Counties in Missouri and Johnson and Wyandotte Counties in Kansas; it has a combined population of over 1.6 million residents. The Kansas City metropolitan area's central geographic location at the juncture of several of the nation's busiest highways (I-29, I-35, and I-70), makes it a major transshipment point for illicit drugs and drug proceeds to, from, and between significant market areas in the West (Arizona, California, Colorado, Texas), the Midwest (Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska), and the East (Illinois, Michigan, New York).

Crack cocaine and methamphetamine are the primary drug threats to the metropolitan area. Crack cocaine distribution dominates the inner-city drug markets. African American crack distributors frequently obtain powder cocaine for conversion from Mexican and Hispanic midlevel dealers located in the old northeast section of Kansas City, Missouri, and from Mexican wholesale and midlevel dealers in Kansas City, Kansas. Mexican wholesale and midlevel dealers typically are supplied by sources in the El Paso and Phoenix areas. Crack sales are typically arranged by cellular phones and conducted at prearranged locations. Mexican wholesale and midlevel dealers typically distribute methamphetamine in outlying and suburban areas of the metropolitan area; most of the methamphetamine is Mexican ice methamphetamine (see Table 1 in Outlook section).

Drug-related violent crime poses a problem in the Kansas City metropolitan area. African American and Hispanic street gangs are the primary perpetrators. African American gangs are the most dominant but tend to be loosely organized and based on neighborhood affiliations. Hispanic street gangs are increasing in number and are more organized and tied to nationally affiliated gangs such as Sureņos and F 13. Both rely on illicit drug distribution for revenue; however, most violence between them stems from personal animosities rather than drug turf. Additionally, an ongoing rivalry between Sureņos and other Hispanic gangs has resulted in frequent assaults and shootings of rival gang members.

Omaha, Nebraska

The Omaha metropolitan area, which includes the city of Omaha, Douglas and Sarpy Counties in Nebraska, and Pottawattamie County in Iowa, is located on the eastern Nebraska border along the Missouri River and has a combined population of over 670,000 residents. Interstates 29 and 80 intersect in Council Bluffs, Iowa, which is adjacent to Omaha, providing drug traffickers with easy access to the Kansas City metropolitan area and national drug markets in California and southwestern states. Omaha is a regional distribution center for illicit drugs--cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana are distributed from Omaha to neighboring states, including Iowa and South Dakota.

Mexican DTOs dominate the Omaha wholesale drug market. These traffickers transport wholesale quantities of methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana to and through Omaha from distribution hubs in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico, and numerous Southwest Region cities, including Phoenix, Tucson, San Diego, and Los Angeles. Mexican DTOs have supplanted dwindling supplies of locally produced methamphetamine with high-purity Mexican ice methamphetamine in Omaha and surrounding counties. In addition, Mexican DTOs maintain connections throughout many smaller Nebraska towns near Omaha, such as Fremont, Grand Island, Lexington, and Norfolk, where large numbers of Mexican nationals have sought employment in meatpacking and poultry processing businesses. Mexican DTOs use their connections in these cities to smuggle illicit drugs into the Omaha area.

African American and Hispanic street gangs control retail distribution in Omaha. Black Gangster Disciples, a particularly active African American street gang in the area, has increased its drug activities in Omaha during the past 2 years. Some Black Gangster Disciples' members operating in Omaha are from the area, while others are from Chicago. Mara Salvatrucha (MS 13) is the fastest-growing Hispanic street gang in Omaha. In addition to distributing drugs, MS 13 members organize motor vehicle thefts in the Omaha metropolitan area. Law enforcement investigations have resulted in the deportation of more than 45 known MS 13 members since 2005 (see Table 1 in Outlook section).

To Top      To Contents

St. Louis, Missouri

The St. Louis metropolitan area, which includes the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County, is located in east central Missouri along the Mississippi River; it has a combined population of more than 1.3 million. St. Louis is a significant consumer market for cocaine and heroin. Mexican traffickers increasingly are using the area as a transshipment and distribution center to supply cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine throughout central Missouri and markets in other states, including Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. The convergence of Interstates 44, 55, 64, and 70 in St. Louis provides easy access for distributors to transport illicit drugs from areas at or near the Southwest Border to St. Louis and outside markets.

Mexican DTOs have increased their presence in St. Louis. Mexican organizations are the principal transporters of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana to the area and have become the principal wholesale distributors. Mexican DTOs operating in St. Louis have not yet established the intricate drug distribution infrastructure set up by other Mexican DTOs in market areas such as Kansas City, Missouri. They sometimes must cooperate with local drug traffickers, making them vulnerable to law enforcement penetration. Mexican DTOs in St. Louis have primary sources of supply in Phoenix and Tucson; they also acquire illicit drugs from sources in Chicago, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, and Los Angeles. African American street gangs control nearly all retail drug distribution in the city of St. Louis, and African American independent dealers dominate retail distribution in St. Louis County (see Table 1 in Outlook section).

Heroin and crack distribution and abuse are major drug problems in St. Louis. White powder heroin known as "China" has overtaken Mexican black tar heroin as the dominant type of heroin available in the city. The street name "China" does not indicate the origin of the heroin. Of the St. Louis heroin samples tested in 2005 under the DEA DMP, 50 percent tested as South America heroin, 32 percent tested as Mexican black tar heroin, and 18 percent tested as Southwest Asia heroin. Investigations in St. Louis have revealed that the majority of white powder heroin available is transported from sources in Chicago. African American street gangs dominate crack distribution, converting most powder cocaine available in the city into crack. However, law enforcement reporting indicates that powder cocaine is becoming increasingly available, since some dealers are now believed to be distributing powder cocaine to abusers with directions on how to convert the powder to crack to avoid enhanced penalties for crack distribution.

Methamphetamine is rarely encountered in the city of St. Louis but is the primary drug problem in surrounding counties, including St. Louis County. Despite statewide pseudoephedrine control legislation, methamphetamine production remains relatively high in eastern Missouri and in areas adjacent to St. Louis. According to law enforcement officials, laboratory operators in these locations travel to neighboring states to purchase large amounts of precursor chemicals and return to Missouri to manufacture methamphetamine.

To Top      To Contents

Secondary Markets

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Cedar Rapids is the second-largest city in Iowa and is located in the eastern part of the state on the Cedar River in Linn County. The population of Cedar Rapids is over 119,000. Cedar Rapids is primarily a consumer market for illicit drugs, but some cocaine and marijuana are supplied from Cedar Rapids to neighboring cities in Iowa, particularly Cedar Falls, Waterloo, and Dubuque.

Crack cocaine distribution and abuse are significant drug concerns to public health and law enforcement officials in Cedar Rapids. Chicago-based African American street gangs, primarily Latin Kings, Gangster Disciples, and Vice Lords, control the retail distribution of crack cocaine in Cedar Rapids; they also distribute powder cocaine and heroin. Mexican DTOs and criminal groups transport large quantities of methamphetamine to Cedar Rapids by commercial and private vehicles and package delivery services; they dominate distribution of the drug. The presence of a large undocumented Hispanic population in the Cedar Rapids area has facilitated methamphetamine distribution by Mexican DTOs. Marijuana and powder cocaine also are highly available in Cedar Rapids. MDMA is available and is transported from New York, California, Spain, and the Netherlands to Cedar Rapids by package delivery services and is used at rave parties (see Table 1 in Outlook section).

Des Moines, Iowa

The Des Moines metropolitan area, which includes the city of Des Moines and Polk County, has approximately 375,000 residents. The highway infrastructure in the area facilitates the transportation of illicit drugs and drug proceeds to and from Des Moines. Interstates 35 and 80 intersect in Polk County northeast of Des Moines and are the principal highways serving the area. Mexican DTOs use Des Moines as a transshipment center for ice methamphetamine destined for Northeast markets. Des Moines is also a large consumer market.

Mexican DTOs are the primary transporters of ice methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana into the area; they use private vehicles to transport the drugs from Mexico, California, Texas, and Arizona. Additionally, African American street gangs from Detroit, the Kansas City metropolitan area, and Chicago transport powder cocaine, crack, and marijuana to Des Moines. They generally transport these drugs to Des Moines in private vehicles, sell the drugs, and return home with the drug proceeds. Moreover, African American street gangs from Detroit have been increasing their influence in Des Moines.

African American and Hispanic street gangs are the primary retail distributors throughout Des Moines. Local African American street gangs are the primary powder cocaine and crack distributors. These gangs tend to be loosely organized and formed in and around housing developments. Hispanic street gangs tend to be more hierarchical and tied to nationally affiliated gangs such as 18th Street Gang, Latin Kings, and MS 13. Hispanic street gangs distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana. Both African American and Hispanic street gangs have used violence in the past to protect drug turf. Moreover, gang-related graffiti increased nearly 25 percent in the Des Moines area from 2005 to 2006 (see Table 1 in Outlook section).

Methamphetamine distribution and abuse are the most serious drug problems for Des Moines law enforcement. Mexican DTOs quickly supplied high-quality ice methamphetamine to meet local demand after methamphetamine precursor control legislation reduced locally produced methamphetamine availability. Most of the methamphetamine distributed in Des Moines is now ice methamphetamine, which Mexican wholesale drug distributors supply to Caucasian and Hispanic retail distributors. African American street gangs control crack distribution, selling the drug to Caucasian and African American users. Mexican commercial-grade marijuana is widely available and abused. Locally produced marijuana is available but not widely distributed. Canadian hydroponic marijuana is rarely encountered.

To Top      To Contents

Fargo/Grand Forks, North Dakota

The Fargo/Grand Forks area includes Cass, Grand Forks, Ramsey, Richland, and Walsh Counties in North Dakota. The population of the area's five counties is approximately 215,000, roughly one-third of the total population of the state. The Fargo/Grand Forks area is primarily a consumer market for illicit drugs; however, it does serve as a distribution center for small communities in eastern and central North Dakota.

Methamphetamine is the primary drug threat to the Fargo/Grand Forks area, and availability of the drug is increasing. Mexican DTOs are the principal transporters and distributors of methamphetamine and most other illicit drugs in the Fargo/Grand Forks area. These traffickers have supplied increasing amounts of ice methamphetamine to meet local demand for the drug. Law enforcement agencies in Grand Forks and Fargo also report an increase in powder and crack cocaine availability. African American street gangs from Chicago; Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota; and increasingly, Detroit are the primary transporters and distributors of powder cocaine and crack in the Fargo/Grand Forks area (see Table 1 in Outlook section).

Marijuana and diverted pharmaceuticals also are abused in Fargo/Grand Forks. Despite the area's proximity to Canada, Mexican commercial-grade marijuana is more available than Canadian hydroponic marijuana. Marijuana is sometimes laced with methamphetamine and GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate). Local adolescents continue to abuse prescription and over-the-counter medications. Young drug-user activity also involves the abuse of "stackers," which consist of a combination of over-the-counter and prescription medications.

Sioux City, Iowa/Sioux Falls, South Dakota

The Sioux City/Sioux Falls area--which includes Woodbury County, Iowa; Dakota County, Nebraska; and Lincoln and Minnehaha Counties, South Dakota--is located along I-29. The Sioux City/Sioux Falls area has a combined population of over 296,000. The area is a distribution center for methamphetamine, marijuana, powder cocaine, and MDMA for markets in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Mexican criminal groups are the primary transporters and distributors of illicit drugs to the Sioux City/Sioux Falls area. Mexican criminal groups transport wholesale quantities of methamphetamine, marijuana, and powder cocaine to the area from California and Arizona, as well as from Chicago. Mexican wholesale traffickers sell methamphetamine and other illicit drugs to Mexican and Caucasian midlevel dealers, who in turn sell the drugs to the area's retail distributors. Caucasian independent dealers are the primary retail distributors in the Sioux City/Sioux Falls area; Mexican and Native American independent dealers also distribute drugs at the retail level, but to a lesser extent (see Table 1 in Outlook section).

Mexican ice methamphetamine has replaced powder methamphetamine as the primary form of the drug in the area. Ice methamphetamine purity levels have dropped, however, indicating that the drug is being cut several times before it reaches the Sioux City/Sioux Falls area, or powder methamphetamine is made to appear and is marketed as ice methamphetamine. Over the past year and a half, the age of methamphetamine users has dropped, and abuse now occurs mainly among Caucasian males and females in their early twenties to early forties.

Crack cocaine distribution is increasing in the Sioux City/Sioux Falls area because of a growing number of distribution networks that are being established by African American criminal groups from Chicago, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Omaha, and Sioux City. African American gang members from Chicago, the Kansas City metropolitan area, St. Louis, and Omaha travel to Sioux City, often by commercial buses, to distribute crack because of the drug's large profit margins in the area. An ounce of crack cocaine in Chicago sells for $500, while an ounce of crack cocaine in Sioux Falls sells for approximately $5,600. The increase in crack distribution has spawned other crimes, such as assault and homicide, with several homicides in the Sioux City area attributed to drug-related gang violence.

To Top      To Contents

Springfield, Missouri

Springfield, with a population of more than 150,000, is the county seat of Greene County and is situated on I-44, which connects Springfield to St. Louis and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Springfield is a consumer market and a state distribution center. Cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine are distributed from Springfield to areas throughout Missouri.

Ice methamphetamine distribution and abuse are the major drug threats in Springfield, although crack cocaine distribution and abuse are prevalent and frequently associated with violent crimes. Hydroponic marijuana availability and abuse are increasing slightly, and the increase is attributed to the large college population in Springfield that typically prefers hydroponic marijuana (see Table 1 in Outlook section).

Mexican DTOs and criminal groups are the principal transporters and wholesale distributors of most illicit drugs in Springfield. These traffickers transport wholesale quantities of ice methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana from Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico to Springfield for distribution. African American local independent dealers, some with street gang affiliations, dominate retail distribution of crack cocaine. African American criminal groups and street gangs in Detroit, Chicago, the Kansas City metropolitan area, St. Louis, and Little Rock, Arkansas, transport and distribute cocaine to Springfield. These groups previously transported the drug in crack form but now typically transport the drug in powder form and convert it to crack in Springfield in an attempt to avoid increased penalties for trafficking crack.

Methamphetamine production has declined dramatically in the Springfield area, and this decrease is largely attributed to the increased availability of ice methamphetamine supplied by Mexican DTOs as well as state pseudoephedrine legislation. Methamphetamine cooks who continue to operate in Springfield are manufacturing condensed ammonia from ammonia sulfate and ammonia phosphate for use in methamphetamine production.

Wichita, Kansas

The Wichita metropolitan area, which includes the city of Wichita and Sedgwick County, is located in south central Kansas; it has a population of more than 450,000. Wichita is a drug distribution center as well as a significant consumer market. The Wichita area contains two major drug transportation routes, I-35 and U.S. Highway 54, which enable drug transporters to bring illicit drugs from the Southwest to the area. Mexican ice methamphetamine, powder cocaine, and marijuana are distributed from Wichita to other Kansas towns such as Salina, Hays, Newton, and Hutchinson.

Mexican DTOs and criminal groups control the wholesale distribution of methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana in Wichita. They have flooded the market with high-purity ice methamphetamine, which has attracted some crack users because of its potency and simulative effect. These traffickers import multipound shipments from Phoenix, El Paso, and locations in California in private vehicles or by commercial trucking companies. Mexican DTOs may be using indirect routes--transporting drugs from the Southwest to Wichita through South Dakota or Nebraska--in an effort to avoid detection.

Mexican, Caucasian, and Asian criminal groups distribute crack, marijuana, and MDMA throughout the Wichita area. African American distributors convert most of the powder cocaine available into crack for retail distribution. Recently, some Asian gang members have begun to distribute powder cocaine and crack in Wichita. Mexican DTOs transport bricked Mexican marijuana, known by local users as Shwag, from El Paso, Phoenix, and Tucson. Local Caucasian dealers sometimes harvest wild ditch weed and use it as filler with commercial-grade Mexican marijuana to increase the amount of drug to sell and thereby increase profits. Asian criminal groups from Canada and Washington State transport MDMA to Wichita, where it is distributed by Asian criminal groups and independent college age users (see Table 1 in Outlook section).

Street gang activity is increasing in Wichita. Some of the increased street gang activity and gang-related violence is caused by rival distributors, including Asian street gangs, becoming active in crack cocaine distribution, which was typically controlled by African American criminal groups.

To Top      To Contents     To Previous Page     To Next Page

To Publications Page     To Home Page

End of page.