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Drug Threat Overview

The NY/NJ HIDTA region is a national distribution center for illicit drugs, primarily cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. Multikilogram to metric ton quantities of these drugs are transported to the region from drug source and transit countries such as Canada, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico as well as from domestic locations such as Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico, and the Southwest Border area. Wholesale quantities of illicit drugs that enter the region are typically divided into smaller quantities for further distribution within the region or in drug markets throughout the Northeast, Southeast, and Midwest.

Cocaine and heroin pose the most significant drug threats to the NY/NJ HIDTA region. Cocaine is the greatest drug threat in the New York section of the HIDTA region; heroin is the greatest threat in the New Jersey section and, more recently, in the Upstate New York counties of the HIDTA region.

Powder cocaine is frequently abused throughout the NY/NJ HIDTA region; crack cocaine distribution poses an increasing threat to New York City, particularly as a result of the involvement of several violent street gangs in the drug's distribution. Cocaine availability at the wholesale level in the NY/NJ region fluctuated in 2008, most likely a result of successful law enforcement efforts against prominent Mexican DTOs, violent conflicts in Mexico among competing Mexican DTOs, increased competition from non-U.S. markets, and large seizures of cocaine. Cocaine generally was readily available at the retail level. Some law enforcement officials in the NY/NJ HIDTA region report that availability did not actually decline, but that some suppliers were manipulating supply to drive up prices. Reporting from NY/NJ HIDTA Initiatives indicates that approximately 4,135 kilograms of powder cocaine and 63 kilograms of crack cocaine were seized in 2008. (See Table 1.)

Table 1. Drug Seizures From New York/New Jersey HIDTA Initiatives, in Kilograms, 2008

Heroin 170.1
Cocaine 4,135.1
Crack Cocaine 62.5
Marijuana 1,756.8
Methamphetamine 65.2
MDMA (du) 3,180.0

Source: New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

Heroin is frequently abused in the region, and its abuse has spread to new and younger populations. Distributors in New Jersey are targeting customers in smaller towns and rural areas to gain market share. The purity of South American (SA) heroin, the predominant type available in the region, is relatively high but has been gradually decreasing over the past several years. Declining heroin purity has contributed to local abusers injecting larger heroin doses or injecting more frequently. Heroin availability has increased in Upstate New York, which has led to a corresponding increase in the number of urban and suburban youths from outlying rural counties traveling to Albany, Erie, Monroe, and Onondaga Counties to obtain the drug for personal use. The number of heroin-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities in the region far exceeds that of any other drug, and heroin milling4 is increasing in the HIDTA region.

Other illegal drugs pose a serious threat to the NY/NJ HIDTA region. Marijuana is the most commonly abused drug in the region. High-potency Canadian and locally produced marijuana are increasing in availability throughout the region in large part because of an increasing demand for high-potency marijuana among young people and college students. Crystal methamphetamine5 poses a lesser, yet increasing, threat to the HIDTA region; abusers often use Internet bulletin boards and community forums to find and communicate with sources of supply. Controlled prescription drug (CPD) abuse is rising in the NY/NJ HIDTA region, particularly among teens and young adults. MDMA is readily available in the region, primarily through Canada-based Asian sources of supply. Other dangerous drugs (ODDs), such as ketamine and PCP (phencyclidine), pose a relatively low overall threat compared with most other available drugs; however, some law enforcement sources report that ketamine has become a drug of choice in a number of communities in New York. In October 2008, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials arrested a Brooklyn man and seized 42 bottles of liquid ketamine at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge border crossing in Lewiston, New York. The man claimed to be transporting 100 bottles of "holy water." Forty-two of the 100 bottles tested positive for ketamine.

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Drug Trafficking Organizations

Drug Trafficking Organizations, Criminal Groups, and Gangs

Drug trafficking organizations are complex organizations with highly defined command-and-control structures that produce, transport, and/or distribute large quantities of one or more illicit drugs.

Criminal groups operating in the United States are numerous and range from small to moderately sized, loosely knit groups that distribute one or more drugs at the retail level and midlevel.

Gangs are defined by the National Alliance of Gang Investigators' Associations as groups or associations of three or more persons with a common identifying sign, symbol, or name, the members of which individually or collectively engage in criminal activity that creates an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.

Colombian DTOs dominate drug trafficking in the NY/NJ HIDTA region; they regularly obtain multihundred-kilogram quantities of cocaine, SA heroin, and marijuana from sources of supply in Colombia, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic for distribution in and outside the area. They often contract with Dominican and Mexican DTOs to transport these drugs from Southwest Border areas to stash locations in outlying suburban communities, including Westchester County and Long Island, New York.

Dominican DTOs, either under contract to Colombian DTOs or acting independently, transport and distribute cocaine and SA heroin in the HIDTA region. They routinely smuggle illicit drugs into and through the region by private and commercial vehicles; however, Dominican DTOs also smuggle cocaine aboard maritime vessels from South America and the Caribbean, and they smuggle heroin using couriers on commercial aircraft that fly into major airports within the region. Heroin couriers typically conceal the drug underneath clothing, or they ingest the drug in "pellets" after packaging it in rubber items such as condoms, the fingers of surgical gloves, or balloons. A typical "swallower" can ingest between 40 and 95 pellets, each weighing between 7 and 10 grams. Additionally, couriers working for Dominican traffickers occasionally smuggle cocaine and heroin into Miami International Airport and then transport the drugs to the NY/NJ HIDTA region in private and commercial vehicles. Dominican organizations are based primarily in the Washington Heights section of Upper Manhattan and serve as midlevel cocaine and heroin distributors to lower-level distributors, principally smaller Dominican criminal groups and street gangs--such as Trinitarios. Additionally, some Dominican DTOs also deliver cocaine and heroin to their regular customers in Upstate New York.

Mexican DTOs are expanding their drug trafficking operations in the HIDTA region. They routinely transport significant quantities of SA heroin, cocaine, and marijuana to the area from Mexico and southwestern states on behalf of Colombian DTOs and occasionally transport marijuana to the region from southwestern states for Jamaican criminal organizations. Mexican DTOs also are increasingly distributing wholesale quantities of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana in the region, particularly to Dominican DTOs in the New York metropolitan area and Upstate New York. Mexican DTOs are increasingly transporting multipound quantities of Mexican methamphetamine throughout the region, particularly New Jersey, using established transportation networks; they also serve as the principal wholesale methamphetamine distributors in the region.

Asian DTOs operating between Canada and the United States pose a major threat to the region. Asian DTOs, primarily Chinese and Vietnamese groups based in Canada, have emerged as significant producers, transporters, and distributors of large quantities of Canadian MDMA and high-potency marijuana in the region. Ethnic Chinese DTOs, primarily Fukinese6 groups, smuggle Southeast Asian (SEA) heroin into the region in containerized cargo on maritime conveyances and by couriers aboard commercial aircraft. Asian DTOs typically supply illicit drugs to Asian street gangs in the region who, in turn, distribute them at the retail level.7 Additionally, law enforcement reporting indicates that Asian DTOs are attempting to generate a wider customer base in the area.

Jamaican DTOs distribute marijuana in the New York metropolitan area. They obtain marijuana supplies from Mexican distributors, either locally or in southwestern drug markets. Additionally, some Jamaican DTOs transport multiton quantities of marijuana to the region from Jamaica aboard maritime conveyances. Jamaican DTOs dominate marijuana distribution in sections of Manhattan and the Bronx, most of Queens (particularly the Jamaican section of southwestern Queens), northern Brooklyn (particularly Bedford, Bushwick, East Flatbush, East New York, and Williamsburg), and sections of northern New Jersey.

Drug distribution is the primary source of income for street gangs in the NY/NJ HIDTA region. Street gangs, including Bloods, Crips, Dominicans Don't Play (DDP), Folk Nation, Latin Kings, Mara Salvatrucha (MS 13), Ņetas, and Trinitarios, are serving an increasing role in retail-level drug distribution throughout the region. Gang members predominantly sell crack cocaine; however, many sell more than one type of drug. Many New York City-based gangs, recognizing the potential for increased profits, now supply drugs to distributors in Upstate New York and northern New Jersey. Increasing gang-related drug distribution in the region has resulted in a corresponding increase in gang-related violence.

Numerous other DTOs and criminal groups operate within the NY/NJ HIDTA region (see Appendix C.) Afghani, Pakistani, and Nigerian and other West African DTOs smuggle Southwest Asian (SWA) heroin into and through the region. Italian organized crime (IOC) members have become more involved with hydroponic marijuana production in and around New York City and are also involved in marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and MDMA distribution in the region. Additionally, Puerto Rican DTOs and criminal groups are involved in cocaine and marijuana smuggling and distribution.


Footnotes

4. Milling refers to the repackaging of heroin into retail quantities.
5. Law enforcement and treatment authorities in the NY/NJ HIDTA region use the term crystal methamphetamine to refer to both powder methamphetamine that has been recrystallized and high-purity ice methamphetamine. Recrystallized powder is the form most commonly found in the NY/NJ HIDTA region.
6. The term Fukinese refers to individuals from the Fujian province of southeastern China.
7. Many of these gangs have realigned themselves with the Fukinese organizations and have adopted names such as "Fuk Ching Flying Dragons," "Fuk Ching Ghost Shadows," and "Fuk Ching Green Dragons."


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