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National Drug Intelligence Center
Georgia Drug Threat Assessment
Cocaine, particularly crack, represents the primary drug threat to Georgia. Cocaine is readily available in Georgia, and crack cocaine is the drug most often associated with violent crime in the state. Hispanic criminal groups, primarily Mexican, are the principal transporters of powdered cocaine into Georgia. These criminal groups generally transport the drug in tractor-trailers and private vehicles from Mexico, California, and southwestern states to Atlanta, which serves as a major cocaine transshipment point and wholesale distribution center for the southeastern United States. Hispanic criminal groups, primarily Mexican, are the principal wholesale distributors of powdered cocaine in Georgia. These groups supply powdered cocaine primarily to African American criminal groups, African American and Hispanic gangs and, to a lesser extent, Caucasian and Dominican criminal groups and various local independent dealers for subsequent distribution. Retail distribution of powdered cocaine is limited in Georgia; most powdered cocaine is converted to crack prior to distribution at the midlevel and retail level. African American criminal groups, African American and Hispanic gangs, and local independent dealers are wholesale distributors of crack cocaine in the state; wholesale distribution usually involves multiounce quantities. African American and Hispanic gangs frequently distribute retail quantities of crack cocaine in Georgia. African American and Mexican criminal groups and local independent dealers also distribute crack cocaine at the retail level, to a lesser extent.
Survey data indicate that the percentage of Georgia's population that abuses cocaine is comparable to the percentage nationwide. According to NHSDA, in 1999--the most recent year for which these data are available--2.1 percent of Georgia residents abused cocaine at least once in the year prior to the survey compared with 1.7 percent nationwide. The highest percentage (5.2%) of past year cocaine abusers in Georgia was among 18- to 25-year-olds.
Treatment data indicate that cocaine is commonly abused in Georgia. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), the state had more cocaine-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities than admissions for abuse of any other illicit drug from 1997 through 2001. Cocaine-related treatment admissions decreased from 4,636 in 1997 to 3,592 in 1998, then increased steadily to 9,052 in 2001. Of the total cocaine-related treatment admissions reported in 2001, approximately 67 percent (6,029) were for smoked cocaine, which primarily represents crack cocaine but also includes freebase.
Cocaine frequently is a factor in drug-related deaths in the Atlanta metropolitan area. According to Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) Medical Examiner (ME) data, cocaine was a factor in 151 of the 233 drug-related deaths in Atlanta reported in 2000. Of the 151 deaths in which cocaine was a factor, 29 were cocaine-induced (overdoses).
There were more emergency department (ED) mentions related to cocaine abuse than for abuse of any other illicit drug from 1997 through 2001. According to DAWN, the number of cocaine-related ED mentions was dramatically higher in 2001 (8,891) than in 1997 (4,244). The rate of cocaine-related ED mentions per 100,000 population in Atlanta likewise was higher in 2001 (244) than in 1997 (156). In 2001 Atlanta ranked third in the rate of cocaine-related ED mentions per 100,000 population after Chicago (277) and Philadelphia (252) among the 21 metropolitan areas reporting to DAWN.
Cocaine was detected frequently among adult male arrestees in Atlanta in 2000. According to ADAM data, over 48 percent of adult male arrestees in Atlanta tested positive for cocaine abuse in 2000.
Powdered cocaine is commonly abused at raves, nightclubs, and bars. Between 1998 and 1999 abuse of smoked cocaine increased from 61.2 percent to 71.6 percent in Atlanta, according to the Community Epidemiology Work Group. Although crack cocaine usually is smoked, a small number of abusers in Georgia dissolve crack and then inject it. Most people who administer cocaine this way are current or former heroin addicts. Cocaine abusers often abuse cocaine in combination with other drugs. In Atlanta powdered cocaine sometimes is combined with heroin and marijuana and smoked, a combination known as a turbo. Crack cocaine primarily is abused in inner-city neighborhoods and housing projects and, to a lesser extent, in rural areas.
Cocaine is readily available in Georgia. Most of the powdered cocaine available in the state is converted locally into crack. Crack cocaine is commonly available at the retail level as rocks sold in small plastic bags, clear plastic vials, and 35-millimeter film canisters. The Atlanta Police Department reports that other than marijuana, crack is the most widely available drug in the city, and officials estimate that 75 percent of all drug-related arrests involve crack cocaine. Powdered cocaine availability at the retail level in Georgia is limited except in large cities such as Atlanta. Powdered cocaine most commonly is packaged in small glass vials and plastic bags for retail sale. Powdered cocaine usually is cut with diluents such as cornstarch, flour, talc, and vitamin B12. In Atlanta powdered cocaine is widely available at open-air drug markets, nightclubs, and other night entertainment establishments.
The price and purity of powdered and crack cocaine vary throughout Georgia. According to the DEA Atlanta Division and law enforcement responses to the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) National Drug Threat Survey 2001, powdered cocaine sold for approximately $14,000 to $19,000 per kilogram. Both powdered and crack cocaine sold for $800 to $1,000 per ounce. Retail quantities of powdered cocaine in the state sold for $70 to $100 per gram, and crack sold for $20 to $40 per rock, depending on the weight of the rock (generally one-fifth to one-fourth gram). According to laboratory testing, in 2000 purity levels for wholesale quantities of powdered cocaine ranged from as low as 55 percent in Hall County to as high as 95 percent in Liberty County. During the same year purity levels for retail quantities of powdered cocaine ranged from 18 percent in Hall County to 90 percent in Columbus (Muscogee County). The purity of crack distributed at the retail level ranged from 7 percent in Forest Park to 90 percent in Columbus. Purity levels for crack cocaine in Atlanta at both the wholesale and retail levels averaged 75 percent.
Seizure data reflect the ready availability of cocaine in Georgia. According to Federal-wide Drug Seizure System (FDSS) data, federal law enforcement officials in Georgia seized 568 kilograms of cocaine in 1998, 356 kilograms in 1999, 605 kilograms in 2000, and 967 kilograms in 2001.
In FY2000 the percentage of drug-related federal sentences that were cocaine-related in Georgia was higher than the percentage nationwide. According to USSC data, powdered and crack cocaine accounted for 55 percent of drug-related federal sentences in Georgia in FY2000 compared with approximately 44 percent nationally. Nearly 31 percent of the drug-related federal sentences in Georgia in FY2000 were crack cocaine-related compared with approximately 21 percent nationwide.
Crack cocaine is the drug most frequently associated with violent crime in Georgia. Retail crack distributors, most commonly African American and Hispanic gang members, often engage in violent crimes such as assault and homicide to protect their turf. In Gwinnett County law enforcement officials report that gangs involved in distributing crack have committed drive-by shooting, home invasion, and assault. Crack cocaine abusers also commit violent crimes.
Coca is not cultivated nor is cocaine produced in Georgia; however, powdered cocaine is converted to crack within the state. African American criminal groups, African American and Hispanic gangs and, to a lesser extent, Caucasian and Dominican criminal groups and local independent dealers convert most of the powdered cocaine in the state to crack cocaine locally, often in large cities such as Atlanta. Hispanic criminal groups, primarily Mexican, sometimes transport powdered cocaine and then convert the drug to crack. These groups, gangs, and independent dealers convert cocaine after it has been transported into the state to avoid federal drug sentences that are lengthier for possessing crack than powdered cocaine. They then transport some of the crack cocaine to suburban areas, smaller cities, or rural communities in Georgia for distribution.
Hispanic criminal groups, primarily Mexican, are the principal transporters of cocaine into Georgia. They transport the drug in commercial and private vehicles and, to a lesser extent, via couriers aboard buses. As part of Operation Pipeline, state and local law enforcement officials seized 697 kilograms of cocaine in, or destined for, Georgia in 2001. Of the total, 568 kilograms were seized in the state, and 129 kilograms destined for Georgia were seized in other states. Hispanic criminal groups, primarily Mexican, transport most of the cocaine into the state from Mexico, California, and southwestern states. These groups frequently transport multihundred-kilogram quantities of cocaine into Atlanta--a major cocaine transshipment point and wholesale distribution center for the southeastern United States--concealed in tractor-trailers traveling on I-20 and I-85. However, Hispanic criminal groups, primarily Mexican, occasionally transport multihundred-kilogram quantities of cocaine in tractor-trailers to cities in the central and southern parts of the state as well. These large shipments are then broken down into smaller quantities and transported to other locations throughout the state and the southeastern United States, primarily using passenger vehicles. Hispanic criminal groups, primarily Mexican, sometimes employ drug couriers to transport cocaine to Atlanta; the couriers travel from southwestern states on commercial buses.
African American criminal groups, African American and Hispanic gangs and, to a lesser extent, Caucasian and Dominican criminal groups and local independent dealers also transport cocaine into Georgia. These criminal groups, gangs, and local independent dealers occasionally travel to drug distribution hubs such as Houston, Miami, Los Angeles, and New York City as well as Jacksonville to purchase wholesale quantities of powdered cocaine and transport the drug back to Georgia in private or rental vehicles. They then convert most of the powdered cocaine into crack locally, often in Georgia's larger cities, and transport some of the crack and small quantities of powdered cocaine to suburban areas, smaller cities, and rural communities in Georgia for retail distribution.
Cocaine also is transported into Georgia by air. Criminal groups and local independent dealers sometimes transport cocaine into the state concealed in air cargo or via package delivery services. These groups and independent dealers also use couriers aboard commercial aircraft to transport cocaine into Hartsfield International Airport generally from California and southwestern states such as Arizona and Texas. Cocaine that is transported by couriers typically is concealed in their luggage or on their person. State and local law enforcement officials seized slightly more than 2 kilograms of cocaine as part of Operation Jetway in 2001. U.S. Customs Service (USCS) agents in Georgia seized 71 kilograms of cocaine that had been transported into the state via commercial airlines in 1999, 147 kilograms in 2000, and 34 kilograms in 2001.
Cocaine also is transported to Georgia on maritime vessels arriving in the ports of Savannah and Brunswick. Law enforcement authorities report that Colombian DTOs, or associates of these organizations, and Mexican DTOs and criminal groups occasionally transport cocaine from Central and South America on commercial vessels to these ports. Because of the volume of commercial cargo arriving at the ports, law enforcement authorities are able to inspect only a small percentage of the cargo. Thus, cocaine seizures at these ports are rare.
Georgia, particularly Atlanta, is a significant cocaine distribution center in the southeastern United States. Numerous criminal groups based in Atlanta supply cocaine to distributors in various cities throughout the state as well as to distributors in Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, and Tennessee, according to law enforcement responses to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey 2001. Law enforcement officers in numerous cities report that Atlanta serves as a distribution center for their cities; these cities include Birmingham and Mobile, Alabama; Jackson, Mississippi; Raleigh, North Carolina; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Memphis, Tennessee; and Hamilton, Ohio (near Cincinnati).
Hispanic criminal groups, primarily Mexican, are the principal wholesale distributors of powdered cocaine in Georgia. These groups supply powdered cocaine and occasionally crack cocaine to African American criminal groups, African American and Hispanic gangs and, to a lesser extent, Caucasian and Dominican criminal groups and various local independent dealers for subsequent distribution. Many of these other criminal groups, gangs, and local independent dealers also transport powdered cocaine into Georgia for wholesale and retail distribution.
African American criminal groups, African American and Hispanic gangs, and local independent dealers are the primary wholesale distributors of crack cocaine in the state, although the extent of their involvement varies by location. Mexican, Dominican and Caucasian criminal groups also distribute crack at the wholesale level in Georgia but to a lesser extent. These criminal groups, gangs, and local independent dealers supply various crack cocaine retail distributors in the state. Law enforcement officials report that wholesale crack distributors sometimes sell "cookies"--crack cocaine formed into patties that measure approximately 3 inches in diameter. These cookies typically sell for $900 to $1,000 each.
African American and Hispanic gangs--some of which are affiliated with Chicago- and Los Angeles-based street gangs--frequently distribute retail quantities of cocaine in Georgia, principally in larger cities such as Atlanta. Street gangs such as Gangster Disciples, Latin Kings, Sureņos 13, Vatos Locos, and La Gran Familia typically purchase kilogram quantities of powdered cocaine from Mexican criminal groups in Atlanta or travel to other states such as California, Florida, New York, and Texas to purchase powdered cocaine, most of which they convert to crack for retail sale. Gang members also distribute small quantities of crack and, to a much lesser extent, powdered cocaine in many small towns and rural areas throughout Georgia. African American, Caucasian, and Dominican local independent dealers who transport powdered cocaine to Georgia usually convert the drug into crack and sell it at the retail level. African American and Mexican criminal groups and local independent dealers also distribute crack cocaine at the retail level, to a lesser extent.
Retail distributors sell crack primarily at open-air drug markets, on street corners, and in alleys. Some abusers travel to stash houses, where crack is sold on a continual basis, to obtain the drug. Powdered cocaine and crack cocaine also are distributed at nightclubs and student hangouts. Powdered cocaine usually is distributed at private residences, parties, nightclubs, bars, and raves.
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