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NDIC seal linked to Home page. National Drug Intelligence Center
Kansas Drug Threat Assessment
March 2003



Map of Kansas showing major transportation routes.

Note: This map displays features mentioned in the report.

Kansas ranks thirty-second in population with nearly 2.7 million residents. Approximately 46 percent of the population is concentrated in Johnson, Sedgwick, Shawnee, and Wyandotte Counties. The population of Kansas is 86.1 percent Caucasian, 5.7 percent African American, 1.7 percent Asian, and 0.9 percent American Indian/Alaska Native. Seven percent of the population identify themselves as Hispanic or of Latino origin.

Fast Facts
Population (2001) 2,694,641
U.S. population ranking 32nd
Median household income (2001) $41,415
Unemployment rate (2001) 4.3%
Land area 81,815 square miles
Capital Topeka
Other principal cities Kansas City, Olathe, Overland Park, Wichita
Number of counties 105
Principal industries Agriculture, aircraft manufacturing, meatpacking

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The Hispanic population in Kansas has increased significantly since 1990. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic (primarily Mexican) population in Kansas increased from 3.6 percent to 7.0 percent from 1990 to 2000. Legal and illegal Mexican immigrants seek employment in an increasing number of labor-intensive industries and sometimes are recruited by Mexican criminal groups to transport illicit drugs into Kansas for distribution.

Kansas has a well-developed transportation infrastructure, and its location in the geographic center of the United States makes it a common transshipment point for licit and illicit goods. Drug transporters primarily use private and commercial vehicles to transport drugs into and throughout the state. Private aircraft as well as couriers on commercial aircraft, buses, and passenger trains also are used by traffickers to transport illicit drugs, but to a lesser extent.

Kansas highways facilitate illicit drug transportation and distribution. Interstates 70 and 35 are two of the most active overland routes for drug transportation in the United States. Most highway drug interdictions in Kansas reported to Operation Pipeline in 2000 occurred on I-70, which traverses central Kansas from east to west. Interstate 35 is a north-south route through eastern Kansas and extends from the U.S.-Mexico border to Duluth, Minnesota. The 238-mile Kansas Turnpike (I-35/335/70) connects three of the largest cities in the state--Kansas City, Topeka, and Wichita. Other highways used to transport drugs into and throughout Kansas include I-135 and U.S. Highways 36, 54, 56, 77, 83, and 160.

Operation Pipeline

Operation Pipeline is a national highway interdiction program supported by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC). Drug seizures from private vehicles are reported to Operation Pipeline by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies operating nationwide along the highways and interstates most frequently used to transport illegal drugs and drug proceeds.


The volume of air passengers and cargo passing through Kansas provides drug traffickers with an additional means of transporting illicit drugs. There are two major airports that serve Kansas--the Kansas City International Airport, located in Missouri, and the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. There are also over 140 local airports and landing strips in Kansas, affording drug traffickers the opportunity to transport drugs via private aircraft.

Marijuana Seized From Private Aircraft

In July 2001 a private airplane suspected of transporting drugs was forced to land in Liberal. The flight originated in Compton, California, and was destined for Greenwood, Indiana. Law enforcement authorities seized more than 160 pounds of marijuana from the plane.

Source: Liberal Police Department; Lawrence Journal-World, 11 July 2001; Associated Press, 10 July 2001.

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Drugs also are transported into and through Kansas by couriers aboard passenger trains. There are over 5,500 miles of operational railroad in the state. In November 2001 law enforcement officials seized nearly 3 liters of liquid ketamine on a passenger train in Dodge City. The ketamine was destined for Chicago and was concealed in a dietary supplement bottle in passenger luggage.

Mexican criminal groups are the primary transporters of illicit drugs into Kansas. These criminal groups obtain wholesale quantities of methamphetamine, powdered cocaine, and marijuana and retail quantities of heroin in Mexico, California, and southwestern states. Mexican criminal groups and Hispanic street gangs sometimes recruit Mexican immigrants to transport illicit drugs into Kansas. Some African American street gangs transport crack cocaine into Kansas from metropolitan areas in surrounding states; however, most crack available in the state is converted at or near distribution locations within Kansas.

Mexican criminal groups dominate the wholesale distribution of methamphetamine, powdered cocaine, and marijuana in Kansas. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) estimates that there are 10 to 20 Mexican criminal groups operating in Dodge City, Emporia, Garden City, Kansas City, Liberal, Pratt, and Wichita. These drug distribution groups each have 2 to 100 members.

Drugs are distributed at the retail level in Kansas by Mexican criminal groups, local independent dealers, street gangs, and outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMGs). Mexican criminal groups dominate the retail distribution of methamphetamine produced in Mexico, California, and southwestern states as well as powdered cocaine, Mexico-produced marijuana, and heroin. Caucasian local independent dealers distribute much of the methamphetamine and marijuana that is produced in the state. Street gangs also distribute methamphetamine, powdered and crack cocaine, marijuana, MDMA, and heroin at the retail level. OMGs distribute some methamphetamine and marijuana at the retail level. The most active OMGs in Kansas include El Forastero, Galloping Goose, Hells Angels, and Sons of Silence.

Hispanic street gangs reportedly have recruited Native Americans to transport illicit drugs into Kansas and to distribute drugs on reservations. There are several Indian reservations in Kansas. The Kickapoo and the Prairie Band of Potawatomi are located north of Topeka, in the eastern portion of the state. Two others, Sac and Fox Indian Reservation and Iowa Indian Reservation, straddle the border between Kansas and southeastern Nebraska. According to Tribal Police, Sureņos street gang members from Topeka recruit Native American women to distribute illicit drugs on the Potawatomi Indian Reservation.

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Drug-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities increased in Kansas from 1997 through 2001. According to the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), the number of admissions for most major drug categories--including methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana--increased overall during that period.

Table 1. Drug-Related Treatment Admissions to Publicly Funded Facilities, Kansas, 1997-2001
Year Methamphetamine Cocaine Marijuana Heroin
1997    997 2,189 2,569 79
1998    996 2,468 2,993 70
1999    800 2,432 2,757 65
2000    922 2,383 3,110 78
2001 1,160 2,279 3,477 75

 Source: TEDS.

The percentage of Kansas residents who report abusing illicit drugs is lower than the percentage nationwide. According to the 1999-2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA), 5.1 percent of individuals in Kansas reported having abused an illicit drug in the month prior to the survey compared with 6.3 percent of individuals nationwide.

In fiscal year (FY) 2001 the percentage of federal sentences that were drug-related in Kansas was higher than the national percentage, and the percentage of federal sentences that were methamphetamine-related was significantly higher than the percentage nationwide. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC), drug-related sentences represented 47 percent of all federal sentences in the state in FY2001 compared with 41 percent nationally. Almost 35 percent of all drug-related federal sentences in Kansas were methamphetamine-related compared with 14 percent nationally. (See Table 2 in Methamphetamine section.)

Violent crime associated with drug-related activity is a particular concern in Kansas. Criminal groups and street gangs commit violent crimes in connection with drug debts and territorial disputes. Many methamphetamine and cocaine abusers commit violent crimes and property crimes to support their drug addictions.

The financial impact on the Kansas government from substance abuse-related costs is significant. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reported that in 1998 (the most recent year for which data are available) Kansas spent in excess of $584 million--approximately $223 per resident--on substance abuse-related costs. This figure accounted for 9.4 percent of the state's total expenditures.


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