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National Drug Intelligence Center
Nebraska Drug Threat Assessment
Cocaine poses a significant threat to Nebraska because of its ready availability, highly addictive nature, and association with violent crime. Powdered cocaine is readily available throughout the state, while crack cocaine is primarily available in the metropolitan areas of Lincoln and Omaha. Mexican criminal groups, traveling primarily in private and commercial vehicles, dominate the transportation of powdered cocaine into Nebraska from Mexico through California and southwestern states. These criminal groups dominate wholesale powdered cocaine distribution throughout the state and distribute powdered cocaine at the retail level as well. Local independent dealers and street gangs distribute powdered cocaine at the retail level and convert powdered cocaine into crack for retail distribution at or near its intended distribution site. Retail-level cocaine distribution commonly is prearranged or is facilitated by pagers, pay phones, and cellular telephones. Distribution typically occurs on street corners and at bars or private residences. The distribution of crack cocaine frequently is associated with violence, particularly aggravated assault and robbery.
Law enforcement officials in Nebraska report that cocaine abuse is common. According to responses to the NDTS 2002, law enforcement officials in Chadron, Columbus, Douglas County, and Omaha reported that levels of powdered cocaine abuse were high in their jurisdictions. Law enforcement officials in Douglas County, Lincoln, and Omaha reported high levels of crack abuse. Law enforcement officials in Fremont, Grand Island, Lincoln, North Platte, Seward, and York reported that levels of powdered cocaine abuse were moderate, while officials in Columbus reported that levels of crack cocaine abuse were moderate. According to combined data from the 1999 and the 2000 NHSDA, 1.4 percent of Nebraska residents reported having abused cocaine at least once in the year prior to the survey, comparable to the percentage nationwide (1.6%).
Cocaine-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities in Nebraska increased from 537 in 1997 to 757 in 2001, according to TEDS. (See Table 1 in Overview section.) In 2001 most admissions (612) were associated with the abuse of smoked cocaine (crack); the remainder (145) administered the drug via another method or did not report a method when seeking treatment.
Cocaine was a factor in more deaths in the Omaha metropolitan area than either methamphetamine or heroin each year from 1997 through 2001. According to DAWN mortality data, the number of cocaine-related deaths fluctuated in the Omaha metropolitan area from 1997 through 2001; 9 deaths were reported in 1997, 14 in 1998, 4 in 1999, 11 in 2000, and 9 in 2001.
ADAM data for Omaha indicate that 18 percent of adult male arrestees tested positive for cocaine in 2000. Approximately 25 percent of African American, 17 percent of Hispanic, and 12 percent of Caucasian male arrestees in Omaha tested positive for the drug.
Powdered cocaine is readily available throughout most of the state, while crack cocaine is primarily available in the metropolitan areas of Lincoln and Omaha. According to responses to the NDTS 2002, law enforcement officials in Omaha reported that powdered cocaine and crack cocaine were readily available in their jurisdiction. Law enforcement officials in Lincoln and North Platte reported that both forms of cocaine were moderately available in their jurisdictions.
Seizure data also reflect the ready availability of cocaine in Nebraska. According to FDSS data, federal law enforcement officials in Nebraska seized 8 kilograms of cocaine in 1998, 12 kilograms in 1999, 196 kilograms in 2000, and 430 kilograms in 2001. (See Table 3 in Methamphetamine section.) Law enforcement authorities that reported to Operation Pipeline seized 14 kilograms of cocaine in 1999 and 202 kilograms in 2000. In 2001 the Omaha Police Department seized almost 53 kilograms of cocaine, and in 2000 the Lincoln Police Department seized 437 grams of powdered cocaine and over 61 grams of crack cocaine.
The percentage of drug-related federal sentences that were cocaine-related in Nebraska in FY2001 was lower than the national percentage. According to USSC data in FY2001, 23 percent of drug-related federal sentences in Nebraska were for cocaine-related offenses compared with 42 percent nationally. (See Table 2 in Overview section.) The number of federal sentences resulting from powdered cocaine violations in Nebraska remained relatively stable with 19 in FY1997 and 18 in FY2001. The number of federal sentences associated with crack cocaine violations more than doubled--from 21 to 46--during the same period.
Price and purity data for powdered and crack cocaine fluctuate depending on location and amount sold. In the first quarter of FY2003 powdered cocaine sold for $18,000 to $24,000 per kilogram, according to the DEA Omaha District Office. During the same time frame, throughout Nebraska prices for powdered cocaine ranged from $225 to $1,800 per ounce and $50 to $110 per gram. In the first quarter of FY2003 crack cocaine sold for $1,200 per ounce and $100 per gram in Omaha, according to the DEA Omaha District Office. Purity levels of powdered cocaine statewide ranged from 90 to 95 percent for wholesale quantities and 20 to 97 percent for retail quantities.
Violence associated with crack and, to a lesser extent, powdered cocaine contributes to the magnitude of the threat to Nebraska. Crack abusers often commit violent crimes to support their addictions, and crack distributors commonly commit violent crimes to protect their territories. According to ADAM data, 13 percent of adult males arrested for violent offenses tested positive for cocaine in Omaha during 2000. The Omaha Police Department reports that crack cocaine-related drug disputes and turf battles are common. Street gang members who distribute powdered and crack cocaine often are armed and commit aggravated assault and robbery. Respondents to the NDIC National Gang Survey 2000 reported that street gangs in Nebraska that distribute cocaine also commit violent crimes. These gangs include East Side Locos in Grand Island; 18th Street, Bloods, Crips, Gangster Disciples, and Lomas 13 in Lincoln; and Sureņos 13 in Omaha.
Coca is not cultivated nor is powdered cocaine produced in Nebraska. The drug is produced in South America, primarily Colombia. Retail distributors commonly convert powdered cocaine into crack in the state on an as-needed basis in an attempt to avoid federal penalties that are harsher for possession of crack than for possession of powdered cocaine. Crack conversion commonly occurs in stash houses or homes of local independent dealers and street gang members near distribution sites.
Mexican criminal groups are the primary transporters of the wholesale quantities of powdered cocaine available in Nebraska. They generally smuggle the drug from Mexico through California and southwestern states to Nebraska. A common route used to transport powdered cocaine is I-15, which traverses Southern California, Nevada, and the northwestern corner of Arizona then connects with I-80 in northern Utah. Mexican criminal groups also transport powdered cocaine into Nebraska from Denver, Colorado; Kansas City, Missouri; Chicago, Illinois; and Las Vegas, Nevada. Powdered cocaine also is transported to Lincoln from transshipment points in Georgia and Florida. Cocaine destined for Nebraska has been seized in other states such as Colorado, Kansas, and Utah.
Street gangs also transport powdered cocaine into the state. A 2001 investigation of the Omaha South Family Bloods street gang revealed a cocaine transportation and distribution network with ties to Mexican sources in Inglewood, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Bernardino, California. The gang is believed to have transported as much as 1,000 kilograms of powdered cocaine from California to Omaha during a 2-year period.
Transporters typically conceal cocaine in hidden compartments within commercial and private vehicles, transport the drug with legitimate items such as livestock, or conceal it in luggage. In March 2002 the Nebraska State Patrol seized 70 pounds of powdered cocaine from a vehicle on I-80 near Grand Island. The cocaine was concealed in a modified compartment in the roof of the vehicle. In January 2002 the Nebraska State Patrol seized 53 pounds of powdered cocaine concealed in a false compartment located in the roof of a van. In May 2001 after a 3-month investigation, members of the Omaha Police Department and the FBI arrested a 23-year-old individual traveling by bus from Oakland, California. The man was carrying 4 kilograms of powdered cocaine in his luggage. Authorities believe the man had transported many other shipments of powdered cocaine by bus before being apprehended. In 2001 law enforcement authorities in Lincoln reported that powdered cocaine was concealed in the body cavities of live cattle that had been shipped to Nebraska. The cattle were transported in trucks from Texas to Denver and then to Nebraska and Kansas.
Local independent dealers and street gangs transport some crack cocaine into Nebraska from surrounding states, although most of the crack available in Nebraska is converted within the state. Law enforcement officials in Lincoln report that most of the crack cocaine seized in their area that has not been converted locally is transported from Omaha; Kansas City, Kansas; Kansas City, Missouri; and Chicago and Elgin, Illinois. Sources for crack cocaine in South Sioux City include Osceola, Arkansas, and Chicago, Illinois.
Cocaine destined for other states often is transported through Nebraska. Law enforcement agencies have seized cocaine from transporters traveling through Nebraska en route to other states including Illinois, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Powdered cocaine is transported from South Sioux City to Cherokee and Denison, Iowa. Crack cocaine is transported from South Sioux City to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In January 2002 Nebraska State Patrol officials seized 26 pounds of powdered cocaine destined for Detroit during a traffic stop. In another routine traffic stop on I-80 near the Gibbon interchange in March 2001, the Nebraska State Patrol seized 765 pounds of powdered cocaine destined for Illinois or New York.
Mexican criminal groups are the primary wholesale distributors of powdered cocaine throughout the state, most notably in Grand Island, Lincoln, and Omaha. Mexican criminal groups in Nebraska have ties to other Mexican criminal groups in Los Angeles, California, and Brownsville, Texas. Local independent dealers and street gangs also distribute some powdered cocaine at the wholesale level throughout the state. According to the Bellevue Police Department, members of Sureņos 13, Lomas, and Sinaloan Cowboys supply powdered cocaine to local independent dealers in Omaha and Bellevue.
Several Nebraska cities serve as wholesale cocaine distribution centers for the state. Nebraska cities near I-80, particularly Grand Island, Lincoln, and Omaha, as well as cities along secondary transportation routes--such as US 26 and US 30--serve as distribution centers and transit points for cocaine destined for other cities throughout the state. Scottsbluff, located along US 26, serves as a distribution city for Alliance. Columbus and Fremont--located along US 30--serve as distribution cities for West Point. Norfolk--located along US 81--serves as a distribution city for Madison, Pierce, and Stanton. South Sioux City--located along US 77--serves as a distribution city for Denison and Fort Dodge, Iowa.
Mexican criminal groups, local independent dealers, and street gangs distribute powdered cocaine at the retail level. Mexican criminal groups, as well as Caucasian and African American independent dealers, distribute powdered cocaine in Columbus, Norfolk, and West Point. Retail powdered cocaine distribution commonly is prearranged or conducted using pagers, pay phones, and cellular telephones; it typically occurs in residences, on street corners, and at bars.
Nebraska-based street gangs are the principal retail level distributors of crack cocaine in the state, particularly in the Lincoln and Omaha areas. Street gangs that distribute crack cocaine at the retail level in Lincoln include the Vice Lords, Bloods, Airport Crips, and Cooper Park Locos gangs. Occasionally, gang members from Omaha travel to Lincoln to sell small quantities of crack because of the higher profit margin in Lincoln. Members of 37th Street Crips, an Omaha-based gang, associate with other gang members and affiliates in California to transport crack cocaine into Nebraska. There are a small number of Asian gangs in the Lincoln area that distribute crack cocaine at the retail level. The most active are Baggy Boyz and Asian Boyz. Baggy Boyz is a Vietnamese gang whose members frequently travel to St. Louis to purchase crack cocaine. Asian Boyz is a Cambodian and Laotian gang whose members often purchase crack cocaine in Wichita, where there is a large Asian gang presence.
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