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Drug Threat Overview

Methamphetamine and cocaine pose the most significant drug threats to the North Texas HIDTA region. Of the 104 local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies' respondents to the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) National Drug Threat Survey (NDTS) 20093 within the North Texas HIDTA Region, 66 identify methamphetamine, most notably ice methamphetamine, as the greatest drug threat to their jurisdictions, and 20 identify cocaine, predominantly crack cocaine. (See Table 1.) Most respondents also indicate that each of these drugs is readily available in their jurisdictions. (See Table 2.)

Table 1. Greatest Drug Threat in the North Texas HIDTA Region, as Reported by Law Enforcement Agencies

Drug Oklahoma Texas Total
Cocaine (crack) 3 14 17
Cocaine (powder) 1 2 3
Heroin NR 2 2
Marijuana 4 8 12
Methamphetamine (ice) 6 43 49
Methamphetamine (powder) 5 12 17
Pharmaceuticals 1 2 3
Other 1 NR 1
Total 21 83 104

Source: National Drug Threat Survey 2009.
NR--Not reported.

Table 2. Drug Availability in the North Texas HIDTA Region, as Reported by Law Enforcement Agencies

Drug Oklahoma Texas Total
Cocaine (crack)      
High 11 30 41
Moderate 7 28 35
Low 3 22 25
Cocaine (powder)      
High 5 18 23
Moderate 10 39 49
Low 6 21 27
High 0 6 6
Moderate 4 20 24
Low 16 47 63
High 19 74 93
Moderate 2 8 10
Low 0 1 1
Methamphetamine (ice)      
High 13 51 64
Moderate 6 21 27
Low 2 10 12
Methamphetamine (powder)      
High 9 26 35
Moderate 7 28 35
Low 4 21 25
High 4 13 17
Moderate 11 36 47
Low 4 29 33
High 1 1 2
Moderate 3 4 7
Low 14 56 70

Source: National Drug Threat Survey 2009.

Mexican ice methamphetamine is the dominant form of the drug available in the HIDTA region; however, locally produced powder methamphetamine is becoming increasingly available in some areas of Oklahoma in the HIDTA region--particularly Tulsa County--as well as areas outside the HIDTA region, where law enforcement resources are less concentrated. Overall, powder methamphetamine production in the North Texas HIDTA region has decreased dramatically since 2004 as a result of the enactment of state4 and local precursor chemical control legislation. Cocaine, both powder and crack, continues to be available in the area. Crack cocaine conversion, distribution, and abuse are most problematic in some of the communities within the low-income urban areas of Dallas, Fort Worth, Lawton, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa. Marijuana, usually commercial-grade Mexican marijuana, poses a serious drug threat to the HIDTA region because it is readily available and frequently abused and serves as a significant cash crop for Mexican DTOs. Contributing to this threat is hydroponically grown marijuana, which is in high demand in the region, particularly in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Heroin, primarily Mexican black tar, is available, and the demand for and abuse of cheese heroin5 remains a serious problem among area youth, particularly in Dallas County. The abuse of diverted CPDs--notably hydrocodone, methadone, and oxycodone products--presents a growing threat to the HIDTA region, particularly in Oklahoma and Tulsa Counties. The distribution and abuse of MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as ecstasy) poses a growing concern, specifically in the Dallas/Fort Worth suburb of Arlington, but the drug poses a much lesser threat in the North Texas HIDTA region than the threats posed by methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, and heroin. PCP (phencyclidine) is also available, most notably in Dallas, Tulsa, and Muskogee Counties. (See Table 2.)

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Marijuana seizure totals resulting from North Texas HIDTA initiatives increased 118 percent overall in 2008 when compared with seizure totals in 2007. In fact, law enforcement officers assigned to North Texas HIDTA task force initiatives seized more commercial-grade and hydroponic marijuana in 2008 than they seized in each of the 2 previous years. Notably, hydroponic marijuana seizure totals increased 156 percent in 2008 when compared with the totals seized in 2007. In addition, law enforcement officers in non-HIDTA-related operations in 2008 seized a considerable number of cannabis plants that were being cultivated at locations within the HIDTA region. (See text box.) Powder cocaine seizure totals were 15 percent lower in 2008 than in 2007, while the total amount of crack cocaine seized increased during this period. HIDTA task force officers also report that drug seizure totals for heroin and MDMA increased dramatically in 2008, far exceeding the seizure totals for those drugs in each of the 2 previous years. (See Table 3.)

Cannabis Grows in the North Texas HIDTA Region

Grow site operators in the North Texas HIDTA region frequently use remote areas of public lands to cultivate cannabis. For example, in July 2008, Navarro County Sheriff's Office deputies, assisted by Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) air and narcotics division support out of Garland, Texas, discovered more than 10,000 cannabis plants growing at two different northern Navarro County locations. At one of the locations, authorities seized approximately 7,500 cannabis plants from seven fields located about 1 mile from another field where Sheriff's deputies had seized 5,000 plants in June 2008. The seven fields were configured with irrigation systems that pumped water to the plants from a nearby creek. Mexican nationals who tended the cannabis plants lived in tents set up around the fields. In a separate investigation at the second of the two locations, sheriff's deputies seized another 2,500 cannabis plants from a wooded area behind a local residence. In addition, in late September 2008, sheriff's deputies seized more than 2,100 growing and harvested cannabis plants from another northern Navarro County field that was hidden behind a tree line about 100 yards from a rural roadway. Furthermore, in early October 2008, sheriff's deputies discovered nearly 3,000 cannabis plants in a field at another Navarro County location.

Source: Navarro County Sheriff's Office.

Table 3. Drug Seizures, North Texas HIDTA Initiatives, in Kilograms, 2006-2008

Drug 2006 2007 2008
Methamphetamine 314.6 21.6 298.8
   Powder 21.8 6.7 29.5
   Ice 292.8 14.9 269.3
Cocaine 706.2 771.1 660.7
   Powder 690.1 768.4 653.4
   Crack 16.1 2.7 7.3
Marijuana 9,126.7 4,898.4 10,655.5
   Hydroponic 5.1 206.5 529.0
   Commercial-grade 7,516.5 4,551.6 10,046.8
   Sinsemilla 234.5 140.3 79.7
   Not specified 1,370.6 NR NR
Heroin 2.2 5.1 30.9
   Mexican black tar 2.1 2.2 4.6
   Mexican brown powder NR 0.1 19.8
   Not specified 0.1 2.8 6.5
MDMA (in dosage units) 7,363.0 19,025.2 100,593.0
OxyContin (in dosage units) 4.0 160.0 386.0
Prescription drugs* (in dosage units) 119.0 783.0 NR

Source: North Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.
NR--No seizures reported.
* The North Texas HIDTA did not include prescription drugs as a category in 2008.

Powder methamphetamine production levels in the North Texas HIDTA region have declined significantly since 2004, although production of the drug in Tulsa County increased in 2008. National Seizure System (NSS) data indicate that the number of methamphetamine laboratories seized in North Texas HIDTA counties in 2008 (43) increased slightly, when compared with the number of laboratories seized in 2007 (40), but was dramatically lower than the number seized in 2006 (72), 2005 (112), and 2004 (272). (See Table 4.) The majority of methamphetamine laboratory seizures from 2004 through 2008 occurred in Oklahoma, most notably Tulsa County, where the 5-year total for laboratories seized (205) was more than half the 5-year total for all North Texas HIDTA Oklahoma counties (391) and exceeded the 5-year total for all North Texas HIDTA Texas counties (148). The number of methamphetamine laboratories seized in Tulsa County declined substantially in the years following 2004; however, in 2008 the number of laboratories seized (32) increased 100 percent when compared with the number seized in 2007 (16). Law enforcement reporting in Oklahoma attributes this increase in laboratory activity in large part to the diluted retail-level quality and increasing price of ice methamphetamine from Mexico, the increased presence of previously convicted methamphetamine laboratory operators who were released from prison, and the ability of producers to obtain precursor chemicals such as pseudoephedrine through "smurfing" operations.6 All of the laboratories seized in the North Texas HIDTA region in 2008 were small-scale laboratories, capable of producing 1 pound or less per production cycle. Operators of these laboratories usually produce small quantities of methamphetamine for personal use and limited distribution. Nevertheless, most traffickers in the North Texas HIDTA region typically purchase large quantities of ice methamphetamine from Mexican traffickers because it is available and generally easier to obtain than locally produced methamphetamine.

Table 4. Methamphetamine Laboratory Seizures in North Texas HIDTA Counties, 2004-2008*

Texas County 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 Total
Collin 3 1 0 0 0 4
Dallas 11 12 9 0 2 34
Denton 3 1 0 1 0 5
Ellis 8 0 0 0 0 8
Henderson 3 0 0 0 0 3
Hood 1 1 0 0 0 2
Hunt 1 0 0 0 0 1
Johnson 3 1 0 0 0 4
Kaufman 0 0 0 0 1 1
Lubbock 6 2 0 0 0 8
Navarro 0 0 0 1 0 1
Parker 7 2 0 0 0 9
Tarrant 46 15 3 3 1 68
Totals for Texas Counties 92 35 12 5 4 148
Oklahoma County 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 Total
Cleveland 1 0 0 0 0 1
Comanche 4 3 1 0 0 8
Muskogee 11 6 6 1 4 28
Oklahoma 64 12 9 0 0 85
Sequoyah 6 26 11 18 3 64
Tulsa 94 30 33 16 32** 205
Totals for Oklahoma Counties 180 77 60 35 39 391
North Texas HIDTA Region Totals 272 112 72 40 43 539

Source: National Seizure System, as of January 23, 2009.
* Data are for laboratory seizures only (chemical/equipment and dumpsite seizure incidents are excluded). HIDTA counties not listed had no reported laboratory seizures from 2004 through 2008.
** Methamphetamine laboratory seizures as reported by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs; data current as of March 31, 2009.

Mexican traffickers supply wholesale quantities of illicit drugs--primarily cocaine, marijuana, ice methamphetamine, and heroin--to the North Texas HIDTA region either through sources in Texas, California, and Arizona or directly from Mexico. Once the traffickers transport the drugs to the HIDTA region, they repackage and transship some of them--particularly cocaine and marijuana--to drug markets throughout the United States, including Chicago, Illinois; Indianapolis, Indiana; Little Rock, Arkansas; Greer, South Carolina; Kansas City, Kansas; Fayetteville, North Carolina; Memphis, Tennessee; Menasha, Wisconsin; Pikeville, Kentucky; Shreveport, Louisiana; and St. Louis, Missouri. Mexican traffickers usually transport wholesale quantities of ice methamphetamine from the HIDTA region to drug markets located most often in the southeastern United States. They also transport heroin to markets outside the HIDTA region for distribution, particularly to cities in the northeastern United States.

Law enforcement officials supporting North Texas HIDTA initiatives arrested members of 70 DTOs and money laundering organizations (MLOs) (66 and 4, respectively) in 2008; in comparison, law enforcement officials supporting the HIDTA's initiatives in 2006 and 2007 arrested members of 73 DTOs and MLOs in each of those years. According to North Texas HIDTA Performance Management Process (PMP) data, the majority of the DTOs and MLOs in 2008 included criminals of Hispanic ethnicity who ran international (32--which includes the 4 MLOs), multistate (17), or local (21) drug trafficking operations. Forty-five of the DTOs were polydrug organizations that most often distributed cocaine, marijuana, and ice methamphetamine. (See Table 6 in Drug Trafficking Organizations section.)


3. National Drug Threat Survey (NDTS) data for 2009 cited in this report are as of February 12, 2009. NDTS data cited are raw, unweighted responses from federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies solicited through either the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) or the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program. Data cited may include responses from agencies that are part of the NDTS 2009 national sample and/or agencies that are part of HIDTA solicitation lists.
4. Officials in Oklahoma passed and enacted House Bill 2167 in April 2004, the first legislation of its kind in the United States.
5. Cheese heroin is a combination of Mexican black tar heroin and over-the-counter cold products containing diphenhydramine and acetaminophen.
6. Smurfing is a method used by some methamphetamine traffickers to acquire large quantities of precursor chemicals, such as ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. Methamphetamine producers purchase the chemicals in quantities at or below legal thresholds from multiple retail locations. They often enlist the assistance of several friends or associates in smurfing operations to increase the speed of the operation and the quantity of chemicals acquired.

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