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National Drug Intelligence Center
Washington Drug Threat Assessment
Cocaine also is a significant threat to Washington. Powdered cocaine is readily available throughout Washington. Abuse of the drug is common, and powdered cocaine is abused more frequently than crack cocaine. Crack cocaine is generally not available outside the major metropolitan areas of Seattle, Spokane, and Tacoma. Mexican criminal groups are the predominant transporters and wholesale distributors of powdered cocaine in the state. These groups transport wholesale quantities of powdered cocaine from Mexico and California into and throughout Washington. Powdered cocaine is transported from and through Washington, primarily Seattle, to drug markets in other states and Canada. Criminal groups, local independent dealers, and street gangs, all of which are primarily Mexican, are the principal retail powdered cocaine distributors in Washington.
Cocaine abuse is common in Washington. Powdered cocaine is abused more frequently than crack cocaine. Nine of 52 Washington respondents to the NDTS 2002 reported high rates of powdered cocaine abuse in their jurisdictions, while 30 reported medium rates of abuse, and 13 reported low rates of abuse. In comparison, 12 of 47 law enforcement agencies reported that rates of crack cocaine abuse were high in their jurisdictions, 17 reported medium rates of abuse, and 18 reported low rates of abuse.
Cocaine-related treatment admissions in Washington are exhibiting a slight downward trend. According to Washington Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse data, the number of treatment admissions for cocaine abuse to publicly funded facilities in the state fluctuated from SFY1994 (3,046) through SFY1999 (3,854), then decreased to 3,779 in SFY2000 and 3,575 in SFY2001. According to TEDS data, the number of cocaine-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities in Washington increased from 4,695 in 1997 to 5,406 in 1999, then decreased to 4,531 in 2001. (Disparities between state and federal reporting regarding admissions to substance abuse treatment programs are likely a result of differences in data collection and reporting methodologies.)
Although cocaine-related treatment admissions in the state appear to be decreasing, cocaine-related ED mentions in the Seattle metropolitan area have increased. According to DAWN data, the number of cocaine-related ED mentions in the Seattle metropolitan area increased from 2,850 in 1997 to 3,410 in 2001. The Seattle metropolitan area ranked eighth in the number of cocaine-related ED mentions per 100,000 population among the 21 metropolitan areas reporting to DAWN in 2001.
Cocaine-related deaths in the Seattle metropolitan area increased over the past several years. According to DAWN mortality data, the number of cocaine-related deaths decreased from 81 in 1996 to 74 in 1997. Thereafter, cocaine-related deaths increased each year to 104 in 2000. Of the cocaine-related deaths in 2000, 31 were cocaine-induced (overdoses).
Cocaine was commonly abused by adult male arrestees in Seattle and Spokane in 2001. According to ADAM data, 32.0 percent of adult male arrestees in Seattle tested positive for cocaine use in 2001, and 18.5 percent tested positive in Spokane.
Powdered cocaine is generally available throughout Washington. In response to the NDTS 2002, 26 of 52 Washington respondents reported that powdered cocaine was readily available in their jurisdictions. Crack cocaine is readily available in larger urban areas such as Seattle, Spokane, and Tacoma.
The amount of cocaine seized in Washington decreased from 1998 to 2000, then increased significantly in 2001 due in large part to a more than 2,500-kilogram seizure. (See text box.) According to the 2002 Northwest HIDTA Threat Assessment Survey, state and local law enforcement officials in Washington seized 230 kilograms of cocaine in 1998, 117 kilograms in 1999, 93 kilograms in 2000, and 2,671 kilograms in 2001. Federal seizure reporting follows this trend. According to FDSS data, federal law enforcement officials in Washington seized 152 kilograms of cocaine in 1998, 108 kilograms in 1999, 58 kilograms in 2000, and 174 kilograms in 2001.
According to USSC data, the number of federal drug sentences that were cocaine-related was higher than for any other drug each year from FY1997 through FY2000; however, in FY2001 sentences for marijuana and methamphetamine surpassed cocaine-related sentences. There were 125 cocaine-related federal sentences in FY1997, 70 in FY1998, 73 in FY1999, 84 in FY2000, and 68 in FY2001. In FY2001 the percentage of federal drug sentences in Washington that were cocaine-related (20.3%) was lower than the national percentage (42.5%). Powdered cocaine-related federal sentences in Washington were more common than crack cocaine-related federal sentences; in FY2001, 14.3 percent (48) of drug-related federal sentences were for powdered cocaine compared with 6.0 percent (20) that were crack-related.
Cocaine prices and purity levels varied throughout Washington in FY2002. According to the DEA Seattle Division, powdered cocaine sold for $10,000 to $24,000 in Seattle, $20,000 to $22,000 in Spokane, $19,000 to $22,000 in Tacoma, and $16,000 to $20,000 in Yakima in FY2002. Retail quantities of powdered cocaine sold for $520 to $1,100 per ounce and $30 to $60 per gram in Washington in the same year. Crack cocaine sold for $650 to $1,000 per ounce in the state in FY2002. Retail quantities of crack sold for $50 to $60 per gram in Seattle, $20 per rock in Spokane, and $10 to $20 per bag in Tacoma in the same year. Purity levels of powdered cocaine in Washington ranged from as low as 50 to as high as 85 percent in FY2002, while purity levels of crack ranged from 75 to 96 percent.
Violent criminal activity in Washington has been linked to cocaine distribution, particularly the distribution of crack cocaine. Numerous street gangs in Washington that distribute powdered cocaine and crack also commit violent crimes such as assault, bank robbery, carjacking, drive-by shooting, home invasion, and homicide, some of which are related to their cocaine distribution operations. According to responses to the NDIC National Gang Survey 2000, these gangs include the Highrollers, Rolling 60's Crips, Varrio Sureņo Locos, and Puro Mexicano Locos in Bellevue; Black Gangster Disciples, Hilltop Crips, Lake City Crips, and Lakewood Hustlers Crips in Lakewood; Maniac Gangster Crips in Olympia; Black Gangster Disciples in Seattle; Black Gangster Disciples, Insane Gangster Crips, Palm & Oak, Palmer Block Crips, Play Boy Gangster Crips, Rolling 20's Crips, 83rd Street Gangster Crips, and 104 Underground in Spokane; Hilltop Crips in Tacoma; West Side 18th Street in Walla Walla; and Little Valley Locos and West Side Hustlaz in Yakima.
Coca is not cultivated nor is cocaine produced in Washington. Cocaine is produced in South America, primarily Colombia. Retail distributors, however, convert powdered cocaine into crack or recook the crack at or near distribution sites within the state.
Mexican criminal groups are the predominant transporters of powdered cocaine into Washington. These groups transport wholesale quantities of powdered cocaine from Mexico and California into and throughout the state. Criminal groups, street gangs, and local independent dealers--African American or Caucasian--as well as Mexican local independent dealers and OMGs also transport powdered cocaine into and throughout Washington, but to a lesser extent. African American criminal groups, street gangs, and local independent African American dealers are the principal transporters of small amounts of crack cocaine into Washington. Caucasian and Mexican local independent dealers also transport crack cocaine, but to a lesser extent.
Powdered cocaine generally is transported into Washington in private vehicles via I-5, I-82, and I-90. Powdered cocaine also is transported into the state on passenger trains, commercial and private vessels, commercial and private aircraft, buses, and via package delivery services. In 2000 the Northwest HIDTA reported that a Seattle-based Mexican criminal group transported as much as 30 kilograms of cocaine per month into the state in private vehicles. In addition, in March 2000 Operation Jetway Task Force officers in Portland, Oregon, seized 255 grams of cocaine and $8,100 in currency and arrested a Caucasian male who had traveled from Stockton, California, to Spokane via passenger rail service. The drugs and currency were concealed in the man's baggage.
Powdered cocaine also is transported from and through Washington, primarily Seattle, to drug markets in other states and Canada. Transportation routes for cocaine transiting Washington include I-5 to Canada and I-90 and US 2, which connect Washington to Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and states farther east. In June 2000 the Newark Police Department seized 5 kilograms of cocaine and $25,000 in currency and arrested an individual traveling in a private vehicle from Seattle to Newark. In April 2000 the Sangamon County Sheriff's Office in Illinois seized 6 kilograms of cocaine from an individual traveling in a rental vehicle en route from Seattle to Detroit. The drugs were wrapped in cellophane, covered in grease, and concealed inside luggage.
Mexican criminal groups are the primary wholesale powdered cocaine distributors in Washington. African American and Caucasian criminal groups and local independent dealers also distribute wholesale quantities of powdered cocaine in Washington. Seattle is the major distribution center in the state, and Tacoma, Yakima, and the Tri-City area are principal distribution points. Mexican criminal groups operating in the Yakima and Tri-City areas supply most of the powdered cocaine available in the Spokane area. Crack cocaine typically is not distributed in wholesale quantities within Washington.
Mexican criminal groups, local independent dealers, and street gangs are the principal retail powdered cocaine distributors in Washington. African American criminal groups, local independent dealers, and street gangs are the primary retail crack cocaine distributors in Washington. Retail quantities of powdered and crack cocaine typically are distributed at open-air drug markets in urban areas such as Seattle and Tacoma, and at indoor locations in smaller cities and rural areas. Retail quantities of powdered and crack cocaine often are packaged in plastic or small cellophane bags.
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