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Hawaii High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Drug Market Analysis
June 2007


Mexican DTOs and criminal groups are the predominant wholesale distributors of illicit drugs, with the exception of marijuana produced in Hawaii, which is generally distributed at all levels by local and Polynesian DTOs in the region. Various local DTOs, criminal groups, and independent dealers, supplied largely by Mexican DTOs, control midlevel and retail sales. Retail drug sales in Hawaii often occur at open-air drug markets in urban areas, in clubs or bars, or through prearranged delivery. Law enforcement reporting indicates that distributors use a variety of means to communicate, including cellular phones, pagers, and text messaging, often using code words to avoid obvious detection.

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Drug-Related Crime

Most of the crime perpetrated in Hawaii has a drug nexus; however, it is difficult to conclusively quantify such crime because the state of Hawaii does not specifically track drug-related crime. Nonetheless, all state and local law enforcement agencies in Hawaii that responded to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey (NDTS) 2006 report that methamphetamine is the drug that most contributes to violent crime and property crime statewide. Furthermore, 2006 Western States Information Network (WSIN) data show that a majority of the critical events2 reported by law enforcement in 2006 in Hawaii were drug-related (2,992 of 4,511), particularly those pertaining to methamphetamine (1,411 of 2,992), followed by marijuana (145 of 2,992), cocaine (124 of 2,992), and heroin (12 of 2,992).

Marijuana-related violence is also a concern in Hawaii; most of the violence is associated with protection of cannabis plots. Law enforcement officers occasionally encounter growers who resort to violence to protect their crops or use booby traps to injure law enforcement officers or others who come upon their grow site.

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Ice methamphetamine is the most widely abused illicit drug in Hawaii, followed by high-potency marijuana. Cocaine, heroin, and ODDs are also commonly abused throughout Hawaii, but to a lesser extent. The abuse of prescription narcotics, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and methadone, is at a low level in comparison with the abuse of other drugs; however, prescription narcotic abuse is increasing and has become a serious concern among law enforcement personnel in Hawaii.

Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) data from 2000 through 2005 for Hawaii show a significant overall increase in the number of treatment admissions for methamphetamine, a significant overall increase in admissions for other opiates (primarily prescription narcotics), a considerable but less pronounced overall increase in primary marijuana admissions, and an overall decrease in admissions for cocaine and heroin. (See Figure 3.)

Figure 3.  Hawaii drug treatment admissions, 2000-2005

Line chart showing the Hawaii drug treatment admissions for the years 2000 through 2005.

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Illicit Finance

Mexican and Asian DTOs are the most prominent drug money launderers in the Hawaii HIDTA region. These DTOs primarily use package delivery services but also employ couriers aboard commercial flights to transport drug proceeds in bulk from Hawaii to drug source areas. Mexican and Asian DTOs as well as other traffickers operating in Hawaii also launder drug proceeds through the use of wire remittance services, money services businesses, and structured bank transactions. Moreover, a number of traffickers, particularly retail-level traffickers, launder drug proceeds through the purchase of expensive consumer items such as automobiles, clothing, and jewelry. Nonetheless, money laundering techniques used by DTOs in Hawaii range from complex to simple, based on the DTO and the level at which it operates.

End Note

2. Western States Information Network (WSIN) defines a critical event as any drug-related field activity, including drug buys, buy-busts, surveillances, drug raids, money laundering pickups, informant meetings, etc. In 2006, however, other crimes, not necessarily drug-related, were included as critical events, thus precluding trend analysis between 2005 and 2006 aggregate data.

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