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National Drug Intelligence Center
Rhode Island Drug Threat Assessment
Cocaine, particularly crack, poses a serious drug threat to Rhode Island. Cocaine is readily available, commonly abused, and more frequently associated with violent crime than any other illicit drug in the state. Dominican criminal groups using private vehicles, often equipped with false compartments, as well as rental vehicles transport most of the powdered cocaine available in the state from New York City via I-95. Dominican criminal groups are the primary wholesale and retail distributors of powdered cocaine in the state. Colombian criminal groups, among others, distribute wholesale quantities of powdered cocaine as well. Other retail distributors of powdered cocaine include Caucasian criminal groups and local independent dealers who typically distribute the drug in smaller cities, towns, and rural areas. African American criminal groups and gangs and, to a lesser extent, Hispanic gangs, Caucasian criminal groups, and various local independent dealers distribute retail quantities of crack cocaine in the state. Powdered and crack cocaine distribution typically occurs in public areas such as parking lots, malls, and shopping plazas and from private residences.
Treatment data indicate that cocaine, particularly crack, commonly is abused in Rhode Island. The number of cocaine-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities increased from 828 in 1997 to 1,491 in 2001, according to TEDS. (See Table 2 in Overview section.) Approximately 76 percent of cocaine admissions in 2001 were for smoked cocaine (crack). The rate of cocaine-related treatment admissions per 100,000 population in Rhode Island (132) was higher than the rate nationwide (96) in 2000, the most recent year for which these data are available.
Cocaine is abused by a significant portion of Rhode Island's residents, and young adults are the most common abusers of the drug. According to the 1999 and 2000 NHSDA, 1.7 percent of Rhode Island residents aged 12 and over who were surveyed reported having abused cocaine at least once during the year prior to the survey, comparable to 1.6 percent of individuals surveyed nationwide. In Rhode Island 6.0 percent of individuals aged 18 to 25 reported past year cocaine abuse, compared with 1.5 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds and 1.1 percent of individuals aged 26 or older. In addition, 2001 YRBS data indicate that 9.9 percent of Rhode Island high school students surveyed reported having abused cocaine at least once in their lifetime, which is statistically comparable to 9.4 percent nationwide. Further, 5.5 percent of Rhode Island high school students surveyed reported that they had abused cocaine in the 30 days prior to the survey, comparable to 4.2 percent nationwide.
Cocaine abuse frequently is cited as a factor in drug deaths in Rhode Island. According to the Rhode Island Chief Medical Examiner's office, 32 of the 92 drug overdose deaths (35%) in FY2001 were cocaine-related. DAWN mortality data indicate that cocaine was a factor in 24 of the 52 drug-induced (overdose) deaths in the Providence metropolitan area in 2001.
Cocaine is readily available in Rhode Island. Powdered cocaine is available in ounce to kilogram quantities at the wholesale level. Retail quantities of powdered cocaine usually are packaged in small, clear plastic bags. Most of the powdered cocaine available in the state is converted locally into crack. Crack cocaine is available in gram to ounce quantities and generally is sold as individual "rocks," in vials, and in clear plastic bags at the retail level. The Providence Police Department reports that crack distributors often wrap crack in plastic bags, which they carry in their mouths to evade law enforcement detection. In response to the NDTS 2002, law enforcement officials in Cranston, Newport, Providence, Warwick, and Westerly rate the level of cocaine availability as high in their jurisdictions.
Low cocaine prices and high purity levels in Rhode Island indicate that cocaine is readily available. (Statewide cocaine prices for the first quarter of FY2003 as reported by the DEA Providence Resident Office are listed in Table 4.) According to DEA, in the first quarter of FY2003 the purity of a gram of powdered cocaine ranged from 60 to 78 percent. Information regarding the purity levels of crack is not available.
Cocaine seizures by federal law enforcement officials in Rhode Island fluctuated from 1998 through 2002. According to FDSS data, federal law enforcement officials in Rhode Island seized 10.6 kilograms of cocaine in 1998, 14.0 kilograms in 1999, 8.4 kilograms in 2000, 28.9 kilograms in 2001, and 2.9 kilograms in 2002. Each year from 1999 through 2001, more cocaine was seized than marijuana, methamphetamine, and heroin combined.
The percentage of drug-related federal sentences that were cocaine-related in Rhode Island was both significantly higher than the national percentage as well as higher than the percentage for any other drug in FY2001. (See Table 1 in Overview section.) According to the USSC data, 65.0 percent of drug-related federal sentences in Rhode Island in FY2001 were cocaine-related, compared with 42.5 percent nationwide. In addition, 40.0 percent of the drug-related federal sentences in Rhode Island were crack cocaine-related, compared with 20.4 percent nationwide.
Cocaine, primarily crack, is the drug most often associated with violent crime in Rhode Island. Crack abusers often commit violent crimes to support their habits, and crack distributors commonly commit violent crimes to protect or expand their turf. The Providence Police Department reports that local gangs distributing crack are responsible for approximately 30 percent of all shootings in the city.
Coca is not cultivated nor is cocaine produced in Rhode Island. The powdered cocaine available in Rhode Island is produced in South America; however, powdered cocaine is converted into crack locally. African American criminal groups and gangs and other retail distributors convert powdered cocaine to crack within the state to avoid lengthier federal sentences associated with the transportation or possession of crack. Under federal law, a person convicted of transporting or possessing 5 grams of crack cocaine faces a mandatory sentence of 5 years in prison, equivalent to the penalty for transporting or possessing 500 grams of powdered cocaine.
Dominican criminal groups are the primary transporters of cocaine into Rhode Island. To a lesser extent, African American criminal groups and gangs, Colombian and other Hispanic criminal groups, as well as various local independent dealers also transport cocaine into Rhode Island. Most of the cocaine transported into the state is purchased in New York City from Dominican criminal groups in the Washington Heights section of northern Manhattan and from Colombian criminal groups in the Jackson Heights section of Queens. The drug typically is transported into Rhode Island via I-95 in private vehicles--often equipped with false compartments--or in rental cars. Cocaine also is transported into Rhode Island in private vehicles traveling from Massachusetts and, occasionally, from Florida and Texas.
Cocaine also is transported into Rhode Island via package delivery services and couriers on commercial aircraft. Providence Police Department officials report an increase in the number of packages containing cocaine being shipped into the city via package delivery services. Couriers also are used to transport cocaine into Rhode Island aboard commercial aircraft. Federal law enforcement officials in Rhode Island reported a seizure of 0.6 kilogram of cocaine from a commercial airline passenger as part of Operation Jetway in 2001.
Drug transporters occasionally ship cocaine through Rhode Island ports aboard commercial maritime vessels. In 2000 federal law enforcement officials in Providence seized 24 kilograms of cocaine concealed in a container attached to the bottom of a cement barge arriving from Barranquilla, Colombia.
Providence sometimes is used as a transshipment point for wholesale quantities of cocaine destined for other areas of New England, particularly Boston and Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Drug transporters usually use private vehicles with hidden compartments to transport cocaine from Providence to these areas as well as to other areas of Massachusetts and other states in New England. Many of the hidden compartments in these vehicles are activated electronically.
Dominican criminal groups are the primary wholesale distributors of powdered cocaine in the state, although Colombian criminal groups, among others, also distribute wholesale quantities. African American criminal groups are the primary wholesale distributors of crack cocaine in the state. Wholesale cocaine distributors typically store the drug in stash houses and retrieve it at the time of sale. Powdered cocaine often is packaged in ounce quantities and wrapped in duct tape. Crack cocaine sold at the wholesale level typically is packaged in ounce and gram quantities.
Various criminal groups and gangs distribute cocaine at the retail level in Rhode Island. Dominican criminal groups are the primary retail distributors of powdered cocaine in Rhode Island. Caucasian criminal groups and local independent dealers also distribute powdered cocaine, typically in smaller cities, towns, and rural areas. African American criminal groups and gangs are the dominant retail distributors of crack in the state. Hispanic gangs, Caucasian criminal groups, and various local independent dealers also distribute crack cocaine, although to a lesser extent.
Cocaine, most commonly in the form of crack, is sold at the retail level at various locations in Rhode Island. Powdered and crack cocaine retail-level distributors in Rhode Island typically arrange sales transactions using cellular telephones and two-way radios. These meetings usually occur in parking lots where the distributors and purchasers can meet, briefly exchange cocaine and money, and quickly depart in their vehicles. Powdered cocaine and crack cocaine also are distributed from residences, local housing projects, at local malls and shopping plazas, and on street corners.
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