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NDIC seal linked to Home page. National Drug Intelligence Center
District of Columbia Drug Threat Assessment Update
May 2003


Cocaine, both powdered and crack, is the primary drug threat to the District of Columbia. The level of cocaine abuse is decreasing but remains high--the number of treatment admissions associated with the abuse of cocaine is higher than the number associated with any other illicit drug except heroin. According to the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), there were 1,924 powdered and crack cocaine admissions to publicly funded treatment facilities in D.C. in 2001, a 7 percent decrease from 2,074 in 2000. According to the 1999 and 2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA), the percentage of D.C. residents who reported having abused cocaine in the year prior to the survey (2.1%) was statistically comparable to the percentage nationwide (1.6%). Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) data indicate that there were 2,830 cocaine emergency department (ED) mentions in 2000 and 2,894 in 2001 in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area--more than for any other illicit drug. Preliminary estimates indicate that there were 1,032 cocaine ED mentions from January through June 2002. The rate of cocaine ED mentions per 100,000 population in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area (69) was slightly lower than the national rate (76) in 2001. (See Table 1.) Cocaine also is a factor in a significant number of deaths in the District. DAWN mortality data indicate that there were 42 cocaine-related deaths in Washington, D.C., in 2001, more than for any other drug.

Table 1. Drug-Related Emergency Department Mentions Per 100,000 Population, Washington, D.C., and United States, 2001
  Cocaine Heroin Marijuana PCP Methamphetamine
Washington, D.C. 69 45 51 13 1
United States 76 37 44 2 6

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, DAWN.

DAWN Emergency Department and Mortality Data

DAWN ED data for the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area in 2001 were collected from hospitals in the District of Columbia and surrounding areas, including five counties in Virginia and five counties in Maryland. DAWN mortality data also were collected for the District of Columbia and surrounding counties in Virginia and Maryland; however, the mortality data included in this report are for the District of Columbia only.


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Cocaine is readily available throughout the District. Cocaine is seized more frequently in D.C. than any other illicit drug except marijuana. According to Federal-wide Drug Seizure System (FDSS) data, federal law enforcement officials in D.C. seized 32.7 kilograms of cocaine in 2002. The Metropolitan Police Department reported seizing 14.5 kilograms of powdered cocaine and 28 kilograms of crack cocaine in 2002. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC), the percentage of drug-related federal sentences that were cocaine-related in D.C. (72.1%) was higher than the percentage nationwide (42.5%) in fiscal year (FY) 2001. (See Table 2.) Of the sentences that were cocaine-related, 58 resulted from crack cocaine violations, and 17 resulted from powdered cocaine violations.

Table 2. Percentage of Drug-Related Federal Sentences by Drug Type, District of Columbia and United States, FY2001
  All Drugs* Cocaine Heroin Marijuana Methamphetamine
District of Columbia 37.8 72.1 19.2  7.7  0.0
United States 41.2 42.5   7.2 32.8 14.2

Sources: USSC.
*Represents the percentage of federal sentences that are drug-related.

Cocaine prices, already relatively low, are decreasing at the retail level, indicating an increasing supply of cocaine in the District. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Washington Division, powdered cocaine in D.C. sold for $17,500 to $35,000 per kilogram, $600 to $2,000 per ounce, and $30 to $80 per gram in the fourth quarter of FY2002 (down from $50 to $100 in the first quarter of 2002). Crack sold for $30,000 per kilogram, $900 to $1,750 per ounce, $80 to $100 per gram, and $10 per rock during that period in the fourth quarter of FY2002.

Colombian and Dominican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) and criminal groups transport most of the cocaine available in the District. In response to the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) National Drug Threat Survey 2002, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department officials reported that local African American and Hispanic street gangs, commonly known as crews, also are involved in cocaine transportation into the city. Cocaine is transported into D.C. primarily from New York City via private and commercial vehicles. However, cocaine also is transported from Philadelphia, Miami, and Los Angeles using similar conveyances. Package delivery services and couriers aboard buses, trains, and commercial aircraft also are used, although to a lesser extent, to transport cocaine into the District.

Colombian DTOs as well as Colombian and Dominican criminal groups are the primary wholesale-level distributors of powdered cocaine in the District. However, the Metropolitan Police Department reports that Asian, Indian, Italian, and African criminal groups also distribute wholesale quantities of powdered cocaine in D.C. African American and Hispanic crews and local independent dealers are the dominant retail-level distributors of both powdered and crack cocaine. Most of the crack cocaine available in D.C. is converted locally by retail distributors on an as-needed basis.

Cocaine, particularly crack, is the drug most often associated with violent crime in D.C. Federal and local law enforcement officials indicate that territorial violence associated with crack cocaine distribution contributes to D.C. having one of the highest per capita homicide rates in the nation. The number of homicides in D.C. increased 12 percent from 233 in 2001 to 262 in 2002.


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