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National Drug Intelligence Center
North Carolina Drug Threat Assessment
Cocaine, particularly crack, poses an extreme drug threat to North Carolina. Distribution and abuse of crack cocaine frequently are associated with violent crime throughout the state. Crack cocaine is readily available in the state. The number of treatment admissions for cocaine abuse increased 21 percent from fiscal year 1996 through fiscal year 1999. The number of cocaine-related deaths increased 12 percent from 1999 through 2000. Most of the powdered cocaine in North Carolina is transported into the state in commercial and private vehicles from Mexico and southwestern states. Additional quantities are transported into the state via package delivery services and on airplanes, buses, and passenger trains. Some cocaine is transported into North Carolina from other distribution areas in states such as Florida, Georgia, New York, and South Carolina. Most powdered cocaine transported into the state is converted to crack. Mexican criminal groups are the primary transporters of powdered cocaine into and through North Carolina; however, African American, Caucasian, Jamaican, and Dominican criminal groups as well as outlaw motorcycle gangs transport powdered cocaine into the state. Mexican criminal groups are the dominant wholesale distributors of powdered cocaine in North Carolina. To a lesser extent, African American, Caucasian, Jamaican, and Dominican criminal groups as well as outlaw motorcycle gangs distribute wholesale quantities of powdered cocaine in the state. Caucasian and Hispanic local independent dealers are the dominant retail distributors of powdered cocaine. African American gangs and local independent dealers dominate retail crack distribution.
Cocaine, primarily crack cocaine, is widely abused in North Carolina. The rate of cocaine abuse in North Carolina is comparable to the national rate. According to the 1999 NHSDA, 1.9 percent of North Carolina residents surveyed reported having abused cocaine in the past year compared with 1.7 percent nationwide.
The number of cocaine-related treatment admissions increased 21 percent from 14,848 in FY1996 to 17,935 in FY1999 and was higher than the number of treatment admissions for any other illicit drug during those years, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Virtually all of the cocaine-related treatment admissions in the state were for crack cocaine. Treatment counselors report that crack cocaine is widely abused, relatively inexpensive, and highly addictive.
The number of drug-related deaths involving cocaine in North Carolina increased from 1999 through 2000. According to the North Carolina medical examiner's office, the number of deaths in which cocaine was a factor increased 12 percent from 65 in 1999 to 73 in 2000. In 1999 cocaine was present in nearly 32 percent of drug-related deaths reported by the medical examiner--this includes deaths attributed to antidepressant, barbiturate, cocaine, heroin/morphine, and multiple drug abuse. In 2000 cocaine was present in more than 30 percent of drug-related deaths.
According to the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) Program, 43.5 percent of adult male arrestees in Charlotte tested positive for cocaine in 2000.
Powdered cocaine and crack cocaine are abused throughout the state. Crack is the form of cocaine most commonly abused. Crack cocaine is commonly abused in low-income communities in rural and urban areas, although individuals in more affluent neighborhoods also abuse the drug. Law enforcement officers in Charlotte report that crack cocaine is abused in the city and its wealthier suburbs. Powdered cocaine abuse generally is concentrated in urban and rural areas where groups of friends congregate and abuse the drug in homes, bars, and nightclubs. Law enforcement authorities report that young adults from affluent neighborhoods sometimes abuse powdered cocaine combined with heroin, a practice known as speedballing, at nightclubs and raves.
Cocaine is readily available in North Carolina. Most of the powdered cocaine distributed in the state is converted locally into crack. Law enforcement authorities estimate that 75 to 80 percent of all powdered cocaine available in the state is converted to crack prior to retail distribution. Most law enforcement agencies responding to the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) National Drug Threat Survey 2001 report that the level of cocaine availability, particularly crack, is high in their jurisdictions. More than three-fourths of all Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigations in North Carolina target the distribution of crack cocaine. Federal law enforcement authorities in North Carolina seized 85.2 kilograms of cocaine in 1998, 70.8 kilograms in 1999, 207.5 kilograms in 2000, and 163.7 kilograms in 2001, according to Federal-wide Drug Seizure System (FDSS) data. The Raleigh Police Department reported 119 crack cocaine seizures and 24 powdered cocaine seizures from April through June 2001.
Most drug-related federal sentences in North Carolina are for offenses related to cocaine. According to USSC data, there were 505 cocaine-related federal sentences in FY2000 compared with 81 for marijuana, 60 for methamphetamine, 5 for heroin, and 11 for other drugs. The number of cocaine-related federal sentences fluctuated from FY1996 through FY2000 with 656 sentences in FY1996, 511 in FY1997, 451 in FY1998, 592 in FY1999, and 505 in FY2000.
The price and purity of cocaine in North Carolina often vary by geographic location. According to local law enforcement officials, in 2001 a kilogram of powdered cocaine sold for $18,000 in western areas of the state and $30,000 in central areas of the state. Powdered cocaine sold for $900 to $1,200 per ounce, and crack cocaine sold for $800 to $1,000 per ounce. Powdered cocaine sold for approximately $100 per gram, and crack sold for $10 to $25 per rock. According to estimates from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), a rock of crack typically weighs one-tenth to one-half gram. According to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, the purity of powdered and crack cocaine generally is between 20 and 80 percent.
Most violent crime in North Carolina results from the distribution and abuse of crack cocaine. Gangs and local independent dealers commit violent crimes including assaults and homicides to protect their turf or settle outstanding debts. Dealers also assault or murder customers who attempt to obtain crack cocaine without paying for it. The Greensboro Police Department reports that approximately 85 percent of the homicides in its jurisdiction are related to the distribution and abuse of crack cocaine. Abusers often commit property crimes, such as burglaries and robberies, to support their habits. The Fayetteville Police Department, in response to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey 2001, reports that crack cocaine abusers commit most of the property crimes in its jurisdiction.
Coca is not cultivated nor is cocaine produced in North Carolina. South America, particularly Colombia, is the primary source for the cocaine available in the United States.
Most of the crack sold in North Carolina is converted from powdered cocaine in the state. Distributors know that federal sentences for distribution or possession of crack are more stringent than for powdered cocaine. Consequently, they usually convert powdered cocaine into crack in small quantities only as needed. African American criminal groups are responsible for most of the conversion of powdered cocaine to crack; however, the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, in response to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey 2001, reports that Mexican criminal groups in its jurisdiction also convert powdered cocaine to crack.
Cocaine most commonly is transported to North Carolina from Mexico and southwestern states concealed in private vehicles or tractor-trailers. Trains, buses, airplanes, and package delivery services also are used, but to a lesser extent. Criminal groups often store cocaine in rural and urban areas in North Carolina on a temporary basis before transporting it into other areas. According to law enforcement officials, much of the cocaine transported into North Carolina is destined for New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. In February 2001, law enforcement officers in Liberty, North Carolina, seized 17 kilograms of powdered cocaine in 1 day and arrested three Mexican criminals. The Liberty Police Department reports that at least one-half of the cocaine seized was destined for northeastern states.
Mexican criminal groups are the dominant transporters of cocaine into and through North Carolina; however, African American, Caucasian, Jamaican, and Dominican criminal groups as well as OMGs also transport cocaine into the state. Mexican criminal groups generally transport larger quantities of cocaine--typically 10 kilograms or more--than do other criminal groups. They use tractor-trailers to transport cocaine into North Carolina from Mexico, California, and southwestern states--primarily Texas. Cocaine, typically concealed among legitimate goods, usually is transported with at least one other drug such as marijuana or methamphetamine.
Mexican, African American, Caucasian, Jamaican, and Dominican criminal groups as well as OMGs commonly use private vehicles equipped with hidden compartments to transport cocaine into North Carolina. Most cocaine is transported from Mexico, California, and southwestern states. According to 2000 Operation Pipeline data, most of the powdered cocaine seized by law enforcement officials that was destined for North Carolina was in vehicles traveling east from Texas and California through Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. To a lesser extent, all of these criminal groups transport cocaine from distribution centers in other states including Florida, Georgia, New York, and South Carolina. Cocaine is concealed in vehicles in a variety of ways. Law enforcement officers have seized cocaine that had been packed in luggage or hidden under car batteries, in gas tanks, in door panels, and in other false compartments. In October 2000 sheriff's deputies arrested two North Carolina men in Hancock County, Mississippi, and seized 2 kilograms of cocaine hidden in a door panel of the vehicle.
Jamaican and Dominican criminal groups often employ female associates, including wives and girlfriends, to transport cocaine into North Carolina in private vehicles. Law enforcement officers in Winston-Salem report that these criminal groups routinely employ African American women as couriers to transport powdered cocaine from Florida into Winston-Salem. These couriers usually transport 3 to 4 kilograms of cocaine per trip.
Cocaine sometimes is transported through North Carolina's major airports. Couriers strap small packages of cocaine under their clothing or conceal the drug in their luggage or shoes. Occasionally, transporters conceal the drug in body cavities or swallow condoms or balloons that contain cocaine. More creative methods also are used. In May 2001 a Jamaican male on a flight from Jamaica to Charlotte/Douglas International Airport transported more than 4 kilograms of powdered cocaine inside roasted yams wrapped in aluminum foil. After arriving in North Carolina, he flew to Massachusetts, where he was arrested.
Package delivery services, buses, and trains occasionally are used to transport small quantities of cocaine into North Carolina. In May 2001 law enforcement authorities in Rutherford County seized hollow belt buckles containing a total of one-quarter kilogram of powdered cocaine. The nine belt buckles, made from a plastic laminate, were inside a package sent to North Carolina from Mexico. The Fayetteville Police Department and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department report that cocaine sometimes is transported into their jurisdictions by couriers on buses and passenger trains.
African American criminal groups transport limited quantities of crack cocaine into the state, primarily in private vehicles. The Asheville Buncombe Metropolitan Enforcement Group, located in Asheville and composed of state, local, and county law enforcement, reported to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey 2001 that African American criminal groups purchase crack in Georgia and South Carolina and transport the drug into Buncombe County. To a lesser extent, couriers transport crack into North Carolina on passenger buses and trains.
Mexican criminal groups based in North Carolina are the dominant wholesale distributors of powdered cocaine in the state. They sell powdered cocaine in quantities ranging from ounces to kilograms. They generally distribute cocaine to gangs and local independent dealers of various races and ethnicities; however, in a small number of communities, they sell cocaine only to Hispanic dealers because they perceive those individuals to be more trustworthy.
African American, Caucasian, Jamaican, and Dominican criminal groups also distribute wholesale quantities of powdered cocaine in North Carolina. For example, Jamaican criminal groups occasionally supply wholesale quantities of powdered cocaine to African American dealers who convert it to crack. Dominican criminal groups sell wholesale and retail quantities of powdered cocaine to other Dominicans and occasionally sell crack cocaine to them.
Members of the Hells Angels, Outlaws, and Pagan's OMGs distribute powdered cocaine in some areas of North Carolina. OMG members typically distribute wholesale quantities to female associates and members of smaller motorcycle gangs, and they rely on those individuals to handle retail distribution from businesses including bars, exotic dance clubs, and tattoo and motorcycle shops. In June 2000 the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation arrested a member of the Pagan's OMG for distributing powdered cocaine in the Jacksonville area. They also seized a large quantity of firearms from businesses he owned, which included several tattoo and body piercing shops.
Caucasian and Hispanic local independent dealers are the primary retail distributors of powdered cocaine. They generally sell the drug to friends and acquaintances. Powdered cocaine is sold in homes, at private parties and nightclubs, and sometimes at local businesses. Law enforcement officers report that powdered cocaine occasionally is sold at rave parties and nightclubs to young individuals who abuse it in combination with heroin.
African American gangs such as and local independent dealers who sell rocks of crack cocaine on street corners or in alleys, primarily in low-income communities, are the dominant retail crack distributors in North Carolina. Law enforcement authorities indicate that Mexican criminal groups also are beginning to sell small quantities of crack at the retail level. Crack cocaine dealers also sell the drug from houses or apartments to evade law enforcement detection. African American retail dealers sometimes employ young Caucasian females to hide crack cocaine on their person and stand nearby while the dealers sell crack. According to local law enforcement officials, these dealers believe that young Caucasian females are less likely to be searched by law enforcement officers.
Crack cocaine sometimes is distributed in affluent communities where dealers arrange transactions with customers via telephone or pager. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department reports that crack cocaine is sold to suburbanites in one-eighth ounce units called eight balls and that dealers communicate with their customers via pager and telephone to arrange drug sales. The dealers and customers usually meet in large parking lots.
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