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National Drug Intelligence Center
Texas Drug Threat Assessment
Cocaine also is a significant drug threat to Texas. Powdered cocaine and crack cocaine are readily available and frequently abused throughout the state; however, crack cocaine is more readily available in larger metropolitan areas such as Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. Mexican DTOs and criminal groups dominate the transportation and wholesale distribution of powdered cocaine. They generally smuggle cocaine from Mexico into Texas through and between POEs along the U.S.-Mexico border, particularly in South Texas. African American, Caucasian, Hispanic, and Mexican criminal groups; local independent dealers; OMGs; street gangs such as Black Disciples, Bloods, Crips, and Latin Kings; and prison gangs including Barrio Azteca, Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos, Mexikanemi, Raza Unida, and Texas Syndicate distribute powdered cocaine at the retail level in Texas. Retail quantities of crack cocaine are distributed by Mexican and other Hispanic criminal groups, Caucasian and African American criminal groups, local independent dealers, street gangs, and prison gangs.
Cocaine abuse is a considerable concern to law enforcement agencies in Texas. In response to the NDTS 2002, 45 percent of the 159 law enforcement respondents in Texas who rated the level of powdered cocaine abuse in their jurisdictions reported high levels of abuse, and 39 percent reported medium levels of abuse. Similarly, 48 percent reported high levels of crack cocaine abuse and 24 percent reported medium levels of crack abuse. Combined data from the 1999 and the 2000 NHSDA indicate that the percentage of Texas residents who reported having abused cocaine at least once in the year prior to the survey (2.0%) was slightly higher than the percentage nationwide (1.6%).
The number of treatment admissions for cocaine abuse to TCADA-funded treatment facilities exceeded the number of admissions for any other illicit drug in 2002. According to TCADA, cocaine accounted for 29 percent of all adult treatment admissions in 2002--crack cocaine accounted for 21 percent, and powdered cocaine accounted for 8 percent. Moreover, treatment admissions for cocaine abuse fluctuated but increased overall from 1998 through 2002. According to TCADA, there were 8,498 adult admissions for crack cocaine abuse in 1998, 10,555 in 1999, 7,157 in 2000, 7,573 in 2001, and 8,984 in 2002. Admissions for powdered cocaine abuse also fluctuated but increased overall, from 3,124 in 1998 to 3,513 in 1999, 2,692 in 2000, 2,682 in 2001, and 3,275 in 2002.
Cocaine abuse is also a problem among Texas' youth. According to TCADA, cocaine accounted for 6 percent of all youth admissions to TCADA-funded treatment programs in 2002, a decrease from 11 percent in 1998. In 2002 there were 345 youth admissions for powdered cocaine abuse and 68 for crack cocaine abuse. Teenagers who live near the U.S.-Mexico border are at particular risk. According to the 2002 Texas School Survey of Substance Use Among Students: Grades 7-12, almost 14 percent of students in grades 7 through 12 living in the border region reported using powdered cocaine at least once in their lifetime compared with 7 percent of students living in other parts of the state. Lifetime use of crack cocaine among border students also was higher (4%) than among students residing elsewhere in the state (3%). Moreover, according to TCADA, high school seniors in the Lower Rio Grande Valley reported higher rates of lifetime use of powdered cocaine and crack cocaine than students from other parts of the state.
The number of cocaine ED mentions in the Dallas metropolitan area increased dramatically from 1,778 in 1997 to 2,586 in 1998 then decreased sharply to 1,770 in 2001, according to DAWN. In 2001 the rate of cocaine mentions per 100,000 population in the Dallas metropolitan area (57) was lower than the rate nationwide (76).
Cocaine-related deaths in Texas reached historic levels in 2001. According to TCADA, there were 491 cocaine-related deaths in 2001, an increase from 424 in 2000, 413 in 1999, 382 in 1998, and 338 in 1997. Moreover, DAWN mortality data indicate that the number of deaths in which cocaine was a factor in Dallas and San Antonio increased in both metropolitan areas from 1997 through 2001. Cocaine-related deaths increased from 140 in 1997 to 185 in 2001 in the Dallas metropolitan area and from 45 in 1997 to 130 in 2001 in the San Antonio metropolitan area.
The number of calls to Texas Poison Control Centers have increased every year from 497 calls in 1998 to 498 in 1999, 874 in 2000, 1,024 in 2001, and 1,195 in 2002.
Cocaine frequently was detected among adult male arrestees in Dallas, Laredo, and San Antonio in 2001. According to ADAM program data, 30.4 percent of adult male arrestees tested positive for cocaine in Dallas, 35.0 percent tested positive in Laredo, and 29.6 percent tested positive in San Antonio.
Cocaine is widely available throughout Texas. Powdered cocaine is generally available in most areas of the state; 89 percent of the 169 law enforcement respondents to the NDTS 2002 in Texas who rated the level of powdered cocaine availability reported that powdered cocaine was readily available in their jurisdictions. Crack cocaine is readily available in larger urban areas such as Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.
According to FDSS data, cocaine seizures fluctuated between 1998 and 2002. Federal law enforcement officers in Texas seized 18,460 kilograms in 1998, 23,617 kilograms in 1999, 12,177 kilograms in 2000, 15,140 kilograms in 2001, and 17,008 kilograms in 2002. Despite these fluctuations, cocaine remains readily available--Texas ranked first nationwide in terms of the quantity of cocaine seized by federal officers in 2002. (See Table 1 in Overview section.)
According to USSC data, in FY2001 the percentage of drug-related federal sentences in Texas that were cocaine-related (25%) was lower than the national percentage (43%). The number of sentences for powdered cocaine in the state (731) was higher than the number for crack cocaine (428) in FY2001. The number of powdered and crack cocaine-related sentences in Texas increased from 919 in FY1997 to 1,159 in FY2001.
Cocaine prices are stable throughout the state. In FY2002 cocaine prices throughout Texas varied depending on the location of sale and the amount purchased. DEA reported that wholesale quantities of powdered cocaine sold for $14,000 to $23,000 per kilogram in Dallas, $15,000 to $16,500 per kilogram in El Paso, and $14,000 to $20,000 per kilogram in Houston. At the midlevel, powdered cocaine sold for $400 per ounce in Dallas, $960 per ounce in El Paso, and $500 to $800 per ounce in Houston. Retail quantities sold for $50 to $100 per gram in Dallas, $50 to $60 per gram in El Paso, and $80 to $100 per gram in Houston. The average retail-level price for crack was approximately $20 per rock. In the Austin area retail crack distributors purchase a "five-pack" (five rocks) for $50 from midlevel distributors, break each rock into five rocks, and then sell those 25 individual packs or rocks for $20 each. Smaller pieces called kibbles and bits sell for $1 to $10. Purity levels of powdered cocaine in Texas ranged from 70 to 90 percent in FY2002, while purity levels of crack ranged from 35 to 84 percent, according to DEA, HIDTA, and Texas DPS.
Violent criminal activity in Texas has been associated with powdered cocaine distribution. A large percentage of this violence results from competition for control of distribution areas. Texas law enforcement officials throughout the state report that this competition leads to violent confrontations that pose a serious risk to innocent bystanders. The Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos prison gang (see text box in Methamphetamine section), which coordinates and conducts street-level distribution of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine, engages in violent activity including homicide, drive-by shooting, and aggravated assault in connection with its drug operations. In addition, Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos sells and trades firearms that members obtain from burglaries of residential homes and businesses.
Violence also has been associated with crack cocaine distribution, particularly in urban areas throughout Texas. The 24th & 25th Judicial District Narcotics Task Force in Seguin reports that crack cocaine-related criminal activity poses the greatest threat to the safety of the citizens in that area. Neighborhoods in Austin also have been inundated with criminal activity related to crack distribution. The Tri-County Narcotics Task Force located north of Corpus Christi reports that crack dealers operate openly and perpetrate violence that endangers the local residents. Moreover, the Westside Narcotics Task Force in Brookshire reports that petty thefts, residential and commercial burglaries, aggravated assaults, and homicides in its jurisdiction have been directly related to the distribution and abuse of crack cocaine.
Coca is not cultivated nor is cocaine produced in Texas. Cocaine is produced in South America, primarily in Colombia. Retail distributors, however, convert powdered cocaine into crack within the state.
The conversion of powdered cocaine into crack occurs primarily in urban areas of the state, generally at or near distribution sites. However, some crack cocaine is transported into and within the state. The DEA Dallas Division reports that crack cocaine is converted within that city but also is transported into the area from Los Angeles and Houston. Moreover, the DEA Houston Division reports that crack cocaine is converted in its jurisdiction but also is transported into that area from Corpus Christi and the Starr County/Rio Grande City area.
Texas is a primary entry point for powdered cocaine smuggled into the United States. EPIC data indicate that the amount of cocaine seized in Texas within 150 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border decreased from 24,137 kilograms in 1999 to 15,998 kilograms in 2002. Despite this decrease, Texas consistently ranked first in the amount of cocaine seized in states along the U.S.-Mexico border. (See Table 3.) In each of the years in this period, cocaine seizures in the border area accounted for more than 60 percent of the total cocaine seized in the state.
Mexican DTOs and criminal groups are the primary transporters of powdered cocaine into Texas. These DTOs and criminal groups smuggle the drug through and between POEs along the U.S.-Mexico border, particularly in South Texas. In addition to Mexican DTOs and criminal groups, various other criminal groups smuggle cocaine into Texas and transport it throughout the state. The San Antonio Police Department reports that local independent dealers transport cocaine into the San Antonio Area. The Alamo Area Narcotics Task Force in San Antonio also reports that local independent dealers transport cocaine into and through its jurisdiction, as well as Colombian and Caucasian criminal groups, OMGs, and local street gangs. In addition, law enforcement officials in Floresville report that the Mexikanemi and Texas Syndicate prison-based gangs transport cocaine into and through its jurisdiction.
Powdered cocaine is smuggled into Texas primarily through POEs along the U.S.-Mexico border in private and commercial vehicles. The drug typically is concealed in trunks, gas tanks, side and rear quarter panels, engines, tires, and front and back seats of private vehicles and sleeper areas, refrigeration units, and modified compartments of tractor-trailers. In one incident in January 2002 U.S. Customs Service (USCS) agents seized more than 900 kilograms of cocaine (758 bricks) in Laredo. The shipment was concealed inside a hidden compartment located at the front of a tanker-trailer. On April 25, 2002, USCS officials at the Del Rio POE seized approximately 2,600 pounds of cocaine that was concealed inside the roof of a tractor-trailer. Cocaine also is routinely intermingled with legitimate cargo, including perishable goods. Powdered cocaine also is smuggled into Texas by maritime means including small boats, fishing vessels, recreational watercraft, barges, and coastal freighters. Traffickers use large maritime vessels to transport cocaine through the Gulf of Mexico and smaller vessels to smuggle cocaine across the Rio Grande. Moreover, cocaine is smuggled across the Rio Grande in bundles that are floated from Mexico into the United States. In April 2000 Laredo Police Department officers seized a bundle containing 328 kilograms of cocaine that had been floated across the Rio Grande.
In addition, powdered cocaine is smuggled into Texas by couriers traveling aboard commercial aircraft, by couriers traveling on foot between POEs, or periodically by couriers traveling through tunnels that run underneath the U.S.-Mexico border, often near El Paso. Couriers also transport cocaine on commercial flights from El Dorado International Airport in Bogota, Colombia, to George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. Couriers commonly travel on foot carrying small quantities of cocaine between POEs such as Presidio, Del Rio, and Eagle Pass. Couriers also use city sewer and drain tunnels to smuggle cocaine to stash houses in the El Paso area.
Cocaine also is transported into and through Texas on buses, trains, and via package delivery services. Operation Jetway data indicate that in 2000 law enforcement officers in Texas seized 538 kilograms of powdered cocaine and approximately 3 kilograms of crack cocaine that were transported (or intended for transport) aboard commercial aircraft, buses, trains, or via package delivery services. The largest single seizure of powdered cocaine (103 kg) in Texas as part of Operation Jetway in 2000 was from a package that was being shipped via the U.S. Postal Service from McAllen to an address in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Mexican DTOs operating near the border supply powdered cocaine to drug markets in cities throughout Texas as well as the rest of the United States including Atlanta, Chicago, Memphis, New York, St. Louis, and San Diego. These Mexican DTOs typically consolidate and store powdered cocaine at stash houses near the border, including locations in Brownsville, El Paso, Laredo, and McAllen for eventual transport to drug markets. They also smuggle powdered cocaine directly from Mexico to drug markets within and outside the state.
Texas highways are used extensively to transport cocaine within and through the state. Interstates 10 and 20, which traverse the state from east to west, frequently are used by traffickers to transport cocaine to other states. Interstate 35, which originates at the U.S.-Mexico border in Laredo, is used to transport cocaine north to San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas as well as to drug markets in northern states. U.S. Highway 90, which extends from I-10 through San Antonio to Houston, is used to transport cocaine from the El Paso area to cities in the eastern United States.
Powdered cocaine frequently is seized from vehicles traveling on Texas highways. Operation Pipeline/Convoy data indicate that state and local law enforcement officers in Texas seized 2,641 kilograms of cocaine from commercial and private vehicles traveling on Texas highways in 2000. Crack cocaine accounted for less than 11 kilograms of the 2,641 kilograms seized in 2000.
Mexican DTOs and criminal groups are the primary wholesale distributors of powdered cocaine in Texas. Colombian criminal groups, OMGs, prison gangs, and street gangs also distribute wholesale quantities of powdered cocaine in the state, although to a lesser extent. The El Paso Police Department Gang Unit reports that wholesale powdered cocaine distribution in its region is conducted by Hispanic street gangs and prison gangs such as Barrio Azteca. Moreover, increasing numbers of Hispanic gang members from Chicago and members of Midwestern Folk Nation reportedly are moving to Texas to facilitate the distribution of powdered cocaine to drug markets in Chicago and other areas in the Midwest. Crack cocaine typically is not distributed in wholesale quantities in Texas.
African American, Caucasian, Hispanic, and Mexican criminal groups; local independent dealers; OMGs; street gangs such as Black Disciples, Bloods, Crips, and Latin Kings; and prison gangs such as Mexikanemi, Raza Unida, Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos, and Texas Syndicate distribute powdered cocaine at the retail level in Texas.
Retail quantities of crack cocaine are distributed by Mexican and other Hispanic criminal groups, Caucasian and African American criminal groups, local independent dealers, street gangs, and prison gangs. African American gangs, particularly Black Gangster Disciples, and Hispanic gangs such as Latin Kings control retail crack cocaine distribution in Houston. In Austin and San Antonio, African American street gangs such as Bloods and Crips, and Hispanic street gangs such as Raza Unida and Latin Kings dominate crack cocaine distribution.
Most retail-level powdered and crack cocaine distribution occurs in open-air markets in residential areas, including public housing complexes, and in high-traffic commercial areas. Retail quantities of powdered and crack cocaine often are packaged in small plastic or cellophane bags or in vials. Other packaging materials include electrical tape, masking tape, and sandwich bags.
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