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Chicago High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Drug Market Analysis
May 2007

Drug Threat Overview

The distribution and abuse of cocaine (particularly crack), heroin, and marijuana as well as drug-related criminal activity are the primary threats to public safety in the Chicago HIDTA region. Law enforcement agencies in the region routinely seize large quantities of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana and regularly arrest members of DTOs, criminal groups, and street gangs. In 2006 Chicago HIDTA initiatives reported the seizure of more than 1,813 kilograms of cocaine, 14 kilograms of heroin, and 17,222 kilograms of marijuana. Mexican DTOs and criminal groups control the transportation and wholesale distribution of illicit drugs in the Chicago HIDTA region. Many of these traffickers are directly associated with DTOs operating in Mexico or the southwestern United States. Street gangs are the primary distributors of illicit drugs at the retail level. These gangs regularly engage in violence to protect their drug supplies, distribution territories, and illicit proceeds gained from drug distribution.

Wholesale quantities of methamphetamine transit the Chicago HIDTA region en route to drug markets in the Midwest; however, methamphetamine distribution and abuse occur at low levels in the area. Law enforcement reporting indicates that methamphetamine distribution and abuse are limited to particular areas of Chicago, especially along the North Side of the city among the gay community and those who frequent nightclubs. Despite low abuse levels, methamphetamine-related treatment services1 at publicly funded treatment facilities increased from 2001 through 2005.

The greater metropolitan area of Chicago (Cook County), including Grundy, Kendall, and Will Counties, has one of the largest illicit drug user populations in the United States. Public health agencies report increases in the number of persons seeking treatment provider services for cocaine, heroin, and marijuana abuse in Chicago. For example, the Illinois Department of Human Services, Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse reports that the number of persons seeking treatment in publicly funded programs in Chicago for cocaine, heroin, and marijuana abuse steadily increased from 2001 through 2005 (the year for which the latest data are available). Treatment provider services for heroin abuse surpassed those for cocaine in 2001 and nearly doubled over that 5-year period. Additionally, clandestinely produced fentanyl from Mexico has contributed to hundreds of recent overdoses and deaths in the Chicago area. Varying amounts of heroin and, to a lesser extent, cocaine were combined with fentanyl by retail distributors. Heroin/fentanyl combinations were sold to abusers in distinctive packaging with names such as Reaper, Penicillin, and Lethal Injection. (See text box.) The potency of the heroin/fentanyl combinations appealed to heroin users in the area who were seeking a more intense euphoric effect. Abuse of fentanyl and heroin/fentanyl combinations resulted in 339 deaths from August 2005 through December 2006, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office. (See Figure 2.) However, the deaths and overdoses have not been a deterrent to abusers.

Mickey Cobras Gang Members Indicted for Heroin/Fentanyl Distribution

On March 1, 2007, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois announced a superseding indictment that charged seven members of the Mickey Cobras street gang in Chicago with conspiracy to distribute heroin and fentanyl in the Dearborn Homes housing project in the city. Members of Mickey Cobras allegedly facilitated and controlled the distribution of heroin mixed with clandestinely produced fentanyl, which they obtained from Mexican traffickers who manufactured the drug in Toluca, Mexico. Thirteen other individuals associated with the organization were charged with conspiracy to produce fentanyl. Members of the Mickey Cobras street gang performed various tasks, including mixing heroin and fentanyl, transporting it to locations at the Dearborn Homes projects, selling the heroin/fentanyl combinations to individual customers, and transporting the proceeds from the sales.

Figure 2. Number of fentanyl-related deaths in Cook County, August 2005-December 2006.

Line chart showing the number of fentanyl-related deaths in Cook County, August 2005-December 2006.

Source: Office of the Medical Examiner, Cook County Illinois.

End Note

1. Treatment services include detoxification, outpatient care, intervention care, resident rehabilitation, and other services.

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