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Drug Trafficking Organizations

Mexican DTOs pose the most significant organizational threat to the Chicago HIDTA region; they are the dominant transporters and wholesale distributors of most cocaine, heroin, and marijuana available in the area. These highly organized and compartmentalized drug trafficking groups often have connections to large DTOs in Mexico from which they receive their drug supplies. They often use familial connections within the large local Mexican population to facilitate and conceal their drug operations. Mexican DTOs operating in Chicago also have drug distribution relationships with high-ranking local street gang members, supplying them with drugs for retail distribution. Mexican DTOs operating in Chicago generally store large quantities of cocaine and marijuana and smaller quantities of heroin and ice methamphetamine in local stash houses for later transportation to other drug markets in the Midwest and the eastern United States.

Drug Trafficking Organizations, Criminal Groups, and Gangs

Drug trafficking organizations are complex organizations with highly defined command-and-control structures that produce, transport, and/or distribute large quantities of one or more illicit drugs.

Criminal groups operating in the United States are numerous and range from small to moderately sized, loosely knit groups that distribute one or more drugs at the retail level and midlevel.

Gangs are defined by the National Alliance of Gang Investigators' Associations as groups or associations of three or more persons with a common identifying sign, symbol, or name, the members of which individually or collectively engage in criminal activity that creates an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.

Various other drug trafficking groups also distribute wholesale quantities of illicit drugs in the Chicago HIDTA region. Colombian DTOs distribute cocaine and SA heroin in Chicago; they sometimes contract with Mexican traffickers to smuggle these drugs to the region on their behalf. Asian, Albanian, and Caucasian traffickers transport and distribute wholesale quantities of high-potency Canadian marijuana and MDMA. Nigerian and other West African traffickers are the primary transporters and distributors of SWA and SEA heroin; they smuggle multiounce quantities of heroin through package delivery services and couriers on commercial airlines.

The Chicago HIDTA region has a high concentration of nationally affiliated African American and Hispanic street gangs, such as Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords, and Latin Kings, which maintain unrivaled control over retail drug distribution in the region. According to the Chicago Police Department Gang Intelligence Unit, approximately 75 street gangs are active in Chicago, with an estimated membership of 100,000. Some street gangs, primarily Hispanic gangs such as Latin Kings, are supplied with wholesale quantities of illicit drugs by Mexican DTOs. Gangs with direct contacts to wholesale sources of supply often operate as midlevel distributors to other street gangs in the region.

Street gang drug distribution operations are concentrated in Chicago; however, many suburban law enforcement agencies in the region report an increasing presence of Chicago gang members in their jurisdictions, many of whom distribute drugs. Officials attribute the movement of gang members from Chicago to suburban areas to several factors--the breakdown of traditional hierarchical gang structures resulting from law enforcement targeting of gang leaders, the razing of some large Chicago public housing projects, an abundance of wholesale illicit drug suppliers, and the expectation of high profits from new suburban drug operations. Street gang members who have relocated their drug distribution activities to suburban areas run operations that vary from the highly structured and cohesive organizations typically found in Chicago, to loosely structured groups that operate independently. These gang members often maintain their gang associations but no longer answer to gang leaders from Chicago or share profits from drug distribution with them.

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