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Strategic Drug Threat Developments

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HIDTA Overview

The Atlanta HIDTA region's emergence as a national-level drug distribution center has resulted in the continued expansion of the HIDTA region. When established in 1995, the Atlanta HIDTA region was composed of DeKalb and Fulton Counties; in 2006, Cobb and Gwinnett Counties in Georgia were added to the region. Then, in February 2008, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) announced the designation of Barrow, Bartow, Cherokee, Clayton, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, and Henry Counties in Georgia and Durham, Johnston, Wake, Wayne, and Wilson Counties in North Carolina as additions to the Atlanta HIDTA region. (See Figure 1.) Moreover, many HIDTA initiatives and investigations extend into counties within the Atlanta Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) that are adjacent to the HIDTA region.1 (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. Atlanta metropolitan area transportation infrastructure.

Map showing the Atlanta metropolitan area transportation infrastructure.

The Atlanta HIDTA region is the leading drug distribution center for Mexican DTOs that supply illicit drugs, particularly powder cocaine, to drug markets in the eastern United States.2 The drug flow from the Atlanta HIDTA region has positioned it as a national-level drug distribution center for many eastern U.S. drug markets. Mexican DTOs distribute illicit drugs from the Atlanta HIDTA region to cities throughout the eastern United States, including Baltimore, Maryland; Boston, Massachusetts; Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio; Columbia, South Carolina; Gainesville, Orlando, and Pensacola, Florida; Indianapolis, Indiana; Knoxville, Tennessee; Louisville, Kentucky; and Norfolk, Virginia. Mexican DTOs also use Atlanta as a distribution center for cities in the central United States, such as St. Louis, Missouri. Moreover, these DTOs distribute ice methamphetamine from Atlanta to southeastern drug markets. The illicit drugs distributed by Mexican DTOs from the Atlanta HIDTA region are generally smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border (Southwest Border) by Mexican traffickers and then through California and Texas en route to the HIDTA region.

The Atlanta HIDTA region has a highly accessible transportation system, including major roadways that link it to the Southwest Border and major eastern U.S. drug markets. (See Figure 2.) Mexican DTOs exploit the Atlanta HIDTA region's geographic location between these areas to transport illicit drugs to Atlanta and then on to eastern drug markets; these DTOs also transport illicit drugs directly to distribution points in North Carolina for further distribution to eastern drug markets.

End Notes

1. The Atlanta Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) includes the following 28 counties: Barrow, Bartow, Butts, Carroll, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, Dawson, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Haralson, Heard, Henry, Jasper, Lamar, Meriwether, Newton, Paulding, Pickens, Pike, Rockdale, Spalding, and Walton.
2. According to the Rand McNally Road Atlas and Travel Guide 2007, the eastern United States consists of Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

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