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Mexican DTOs and criminal groups dominate wholesale cocaine, heroin, and marijuana distribution in the Chicago HIDTA region; their domination is unlikely to be challenged by other groups in the near term. Mexican traffickers are increasingly expanding their distribution operations to suburban communities in the region, where they also store large drug shipments. The growing Mexican population in suburban areas enables these organizations to conceal their trafficking activities by blending into expanding Hispanic communities. Asian, Albanian, and Caucasian traffickers distribute wholesale quantities of MDMA and high-potency Canadian marijuana in the region.

Retail drug distribution in the region is largely controlled by street gangs. High-ranking street gang members often have access to multiple sources of supply, including Mexican, Colombian, and Nigerian and other West African traffickers, ensuring them a steady supply of drugs for retail distribution. Street corner drug sales in urban areas are the principal means by which retail-level dealers distribute drugs in Chicago. However, over the past few years, the Chicago Police Department's initiatives targeting street corner drug distribution have been successful in reducing open-air markets and associated violent crime in the city. As a result, some retail-level dealers have established operations in outlying suburban communities; this has caused an increase in drug-related crimes in these areas, including robberies, drive-by shootings, and homicides. Many suburban law enforcement agencies report that they are increasingly burdened with the responsibility of combating gang-related criminal activity, often without the necessary resources.

The Chicago HIDTA region serves as a national-level distribution center for illicit drugs available throughout the Midwest and the eastern United States. Some of the illicit drugs (cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and ice methamphetamine) transported to the Chicago area are destined for other drug markets, including those in Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Mexican DTOs transport ice methamphetamine into and through Chicago for eventual distribution in other markets in the Midwest, where local methamphetamine production has declined and demand for the drug remains high. Additionally, distributors and abusers in other states routinely travel to the region to purchase drugs and return to their home locations to distribute them. For example, heroin abusers from northern Indiana and southern Wisconsin often travel to the Chicago HIDTA region to purchase heroin.

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Drug-Related Crime

Drug-related violent crime committed by street gangs is a primary public safety concern for law enforcement officials in the Chicago HIDTA region. Drug-related violence in the area often results from disputes between street gang members vying for control of drug distribution territories or drug and money "rip-offs" of dealers or buyers. When violence does occur, retaliation typically follows, leading to increased hostilities and often homicides. According to the Chicago Police Department, gang-related murders in Chicago increased 36.3 percent from 2007 (168 murders) through 2008 (229 murders). The overall threat of gang violence is elevated by the availability of firearms supplied to Chicago street gang members from associates in states with less stringent gun control laws. Of the 510 murders investigated by the Chicago Police Department in 2008, 80.8 percent involved firearms. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, 55.8 percent of the firearms recovered in Illinois in 2007 were recovered in Chicago. Furthermore, the top out-of-state source for firearms recovered in Illinois is Indiana, where gun control laws are less stringent. Although a large percentage of drug-related gang violence occurs in urban areas, suburban communities are experiencing an increase in such violence.

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