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Drug Trafficking Organizations

Mexican traffickers, principally associated with the Sinaloa Cartel and, to a lesser extent, the Beltrán-Leyva Organization, dominate drug trafficking in the Arizona HIDTA region. These traffickers regularly smuggle ton quantities of marijuana and multikilogram quantities of ice methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin from Mexico into the HIDTA region. Mexican DTOs operate within complex drug transportation and distribution networks reaching from the Arizona-Mexico border to much of the United States, including to the New England, New York/New Jersey, Southeast, and West Central Regions of the country. Many of the Mexican DTOs operating in the HIDTA region either produce drugs in Mexico or obtain precursors from producers in Mexico or Colombia, ensuring a steady flow of illicit drugs to markets within and outside the HIDTA region.

According to the Arizona HIDTA, Mexican nationals continue to use the Indian reservations as a safe haven to establish drug distribution networks. Mexican nationals sometimes romance or marry Native Americans to gain acceptance on the reservation and residency. Often these individuals provide free samples of methamphetamine to members of the tribe and have targeted youth. The Mexican nationals also recruit Native Americans to deal methamphetamine on the reservations. Two methamphetamine investigations in 2009 on two different Arizona Indian reservations resulted in multiple arrests of tribal members. These investigations revealed that the methamphetamine came from Mexican sources off the reservation.

The Arizona New Mexican Mafia prison-based gang is also a major transporter and distributor of wholesale quantities of marijuana, supplying Hispanic street gangs in Arizona Department of Corrections facilities and on the streets in the Arizona HIDTA region.d The Barrio Hollywood street gang also transports ton quantities of marijuana into Tucson and Phoenix for distribution throughout the area.

Street gangs in Arizona are moving some of their operations from urban to rural areas. Gangs such as Crips are increasingly operating in more isolated areas where police are less familiar with gang activity. Moreover, law enforcement reporting reveals that numerous Bloods and Crips sets distribute wholesale quantities of marijuana throughout the HIDTA region. More out-of-state gangs are appearing in Arizona; Chicago-based Latin Kings and Spanish Gangster Disciples and Barrio Aztecas from Texas have been identified in Cochise County as well. The Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) also reports that gang members are displaying fewer gang-related tattoos and colors and trying to maintain lower profiles to avoid attracting law enforcement attention. Additionally, the number of California-based gangs, including various Sureños sets and West Side 18th Street members, in Arizona is increasing as members seek to avoid California's "three strikes" rule for violators. The border city of Douglas, Arizona, has attracted members of the East Side Torrance and South Side Harbor City gangs from Los Angeles, who have moved closer to the border to facilitate their drug distribution operations.


d. Prison gangs frequently control drug distribution within correctional institutions and in some neighborhoods. Particularly in the Southwest, prison gangs rely on connections to Mexican DTOs for a ready supply of illicit drugs, which they then distribute through their organizations in prisons or to associated street gangs.

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