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Nevada High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Drug Market Analysis
June 2007


Drug abuse levels in the Nevada HIDTA region, particularly those for methamphetamine and prescription drugs, are high. According to the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health3 released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), methamphetamine use nationwide was highest in Nevada. Additionally, data from SAMHSA's Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) for 2002 through 2005 (the most recent year for which data are available) indicate that methamphetamines/amphetamines were identified more often than any other substance, including alcohol, as the primary substance of abuse in admissions to publicly funded treatment facilities in Nevada. The vast majority of these admissions occurred in the Nevada HIDTA region. Moreover, Nevada's law enforcement and public health authorities report that methamphetamine abuse is the most significant drug-related health threat in Native American communities in Nevada.

The total number of drug-related deaths in Clark County rose between 2004 (391) and 2006 (474), according to the Clark County Coroner's Office. Drug-related deaths have been attributed more to diverted pharmaceuticals than to any other drug, and the number of deaths has increased annually over the last 3 years. The number of drug-related deaths attributed to cocaine has also increased steadily since 2004. The number of methamphetamine-related deaths slightly decreased in 2005, a development that could reflect the decline in the availability of higher-purity methamphetamine during this time. However, the number of methamphetamine-related deaths increased in 2006, rising above both 2004 and 2005 levels. (See Table 2.) Additionally, numerous autopsies revealed the abuse of various drug combinations involving pharmaceuticals (including oxycodones and hydrocodones), stimulants (methamphetamine and cocaine), and opiates (heroin, methadone, and prescription opiates).

Table 2. Number and Percentage of Increase of Drug-Related Deaths by Drug in Clark County, 2004-2006
Drug Type 2004 2005 2006 Percent of Increase
Diverted pharmaceuticals 115 147 165 43
Cocaine 93 109 115 24
Methamphetamine 78 65 80 3
Heroin 24 40 35 46

Source: Clark County Coroner's Office.

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Drug-Related Crime

Methamphetamine trafficking and abuse are the leading contributors to property crime and violent crime in the Nevada HIDTA region. Most methamphetamine-related property crime, such as burglary, identity theft, and larceny, is committed by methamphetamine abusers, while most methamphetamine-related violent crime, such as armed robbery, assault, and homicide, is committed by methamphetamine distributors in the course of drug trafficking operations. Additionally, Nevada state and local law enforcement agencies responding to the NDIC 2006 National Drug Threat Survey report that methamphetamine was the drug that most contributed to property crime and violent crime in their areas.

Operation Community Shield

To combat the escalating problem of transnational and other violent street gangs across the country, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched "Operation Community Shield" in February 2005 in partnership with other federal, state, and local law enforcement, prosecutors, and probation officers. This initiative focuses on developing a comprehensive and integrated approach in conducting criminal investigations and other law enforcement operations against these violent street gang members. Since 2005, participants of this initiative in the Nevada HIDTA region arrested 50 gang members and associates from 18th Street Gang (the El Salvadoran rival of Mara Salvatrucha (MS 13)), Barrio Naked City, Latin Kings, and Sureņos (Sur 13).

Source: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

High abuse levels of diverted pharmaceuticals have also been linked to property crime within the HIDTA region. According to law enforcement officials, pharmaceutical drug abusers are increasingly engaging in identify theft to obtain fraudulent prescriptions for OxyContin (oxycodone) and hydrocodones. They are also committing pharmacy break-ins to acquire the drugs.

A significant number of homicides are committed each year in Nevada; most are perpetrated in Clark County. (See Table 3.) Several homicides are linked to drug trafficking and gang-related violence each year. Law enforcement officials anticipate that gang-related homicides may rise as a result of a general increase in violence among younger gang members seeking to establish "street" reputations. Moreover, law enforcement officers report that younger gang members are also more likely to commit violent acts toward law enforcement officers.

Table 3. Number of Homicides by Circumstance in Clark and Washoe Counties and Statewide in Nevada, 2004-2006*
Circumstance of Homicide Clark County Washoe County Total Statewide
2004 2005 2006 2004 2005 2006 2004 2005 2006
Argument 22 30 50 4 4 1 28 37 51
Burglary 4 3 1 0 0 0 5 3 2
Child abuse 6 8 9 1 0 1 7 11 12
Domestic conflict 19 17 19 4 2 3 24 26 28
Drive-by shooting 4 5 3 1 0 0 5 7 3
Drug-related 14 17 5 0 0 5 14 17 10
Gang-related 17 7 7 1 1 1 18 9 10
Other 17 27 15 2 5 14 22 30 32
Robbery 9 9 12 0 2 0 9 10 12
Unknown 44 54 57 2 0 2 44 60 71
Total 156 177 178 15 14 27 176 210 231

Source: Crime and Justice in Nevada, Nevada Department of Public Safety; Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
*Figures for 2006 are tentative and are currently being reconciled by the Nevada Department of Public Safety (DPS) for statistical purposes.

End Note

3. From 2002 through 2005 an estimated 1.4 million persons (0.6% of the total U.S. population) aged 12 or older had used methamphetamine in the past year. Rates of abuse were highest in Nevada (2.0%), Montana (1.5%), and Wyoming (1.5%).

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