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National Drug Intelligence Center
New Jersey Drug Threat Assessment Update
The illicit distribution and abuse of cocaine, both powdered and crack, pose the primary drug threat to New Jersey. The number of cocaine-related treatment admissions is decreasing but remains high. According to the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, there were 6,009 primary treatment admissions for powdered and crack cocaine abuse in New Jersey in 2000, 5,629 in 2001, and 5,592 in 2002. According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), the number of cocaine emergency department (ED) mentions in the Newark metropolitan area increased from 2,631 in 2001 to 3,242 in 2002. The number of cocaine ED mentions was higher than for any other illicit drug except heroin in 2001 and 2002. (See Table 1.) Cocaine also is a factor in a significant number of deaths in the Newark metropolitan area (Essex, Morris, and Union Counties). According to DAWN mortality data, there were 148 cocaine-related deaths in these three counties in 2001, and Essex County alone accounted for 106 of those deaths.
Cocaine is readily available throughout New Jersey. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) National Drug Threat Survey (NDTS) 2003, 80.1 percent of law enforcement agency respondents in New Jersey reported that powdered cocaine was readily available (availability described as either high or moderate), while 73.0 percent reported that crack cocaine was readily available. Moreover, 29.2 percent of law enforcement officials throughout New Jersey identified cocaine, either powdered (12.1%) or crack (17.1%), as their greatest drug threat. More cocaine is seized in the state than any other illicit drug except marijuana and, according to Federal-wide Drug Seizure System (FDSS) data, federal law enforcement officials in New Jersey seized 480 kilograms of cocaine in 2002. Data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) indicate that the percentage of drug-related federal sentences in New Jersey that were related to cocaine in fiscal year (FY) 2001 (45.1%) surpassed the percentage nationwide (42.5%) for the first time in the previous 5 years.
Cocaine prices vary somewhat depending on the location and quantity sold; however, low, stable prices overall indicate that there is an abundant supply of cocaine in New Jersey. For example, price ranges found in northern counties (above and including Monmouth) and southern counties (below Monmouth) are similar. In northern New Jersey powdered cocaine sold for $19,000 to $34,000 per kilogram, $500 to $1,800 per ounce, and $30 to $100 per gram in the third quarter of FY2003, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Newark Division, while in southern New Jersey prices were $21,000 to $35,000 per kilogram, $500 to $1,600 per ounce, and $32 to $100 per gram. Crack sold for $600 to $2,000 per ounce in northern New Jersey and for $850 to $1,600 per ounce in southern New Jersey in the third quarter of FY2003. A rock of crack sold for $5 to $20 throughout the state during the same period. Purity levels vary noticeably between northern and southern New Jersey, however. According to DEA, cocaine purity at various distribution levels in the third quarter of FY2003 ranged from 87 to 94 percent in the northern part of New Jersey and 61 to 84 percent in the southern part.
Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Mexican criminal groups are the dominant transporters of powdered cocaine into New Jersey. These criminal groups, primarily Dominican groups, transport powdered cocaine to New Jersey from the Washington Heights section of Upper Manhattan via the George Washington Bridge and Interstate 95 in commercial and private vehicles. However, some transport of the drug flows from New Jersey, where stash houses are increasingly located, to distribution sites in Washington Heights. (See text box.) Puerto Rican criminal groups frequently transport kilogram-size cocaine bricks into New Jersey from San Juan, Puerto Rico, via commercial airlines. The cocaine typically is wrapped in clear plastic and duct tape, then is wrapped again in clear plastic and concealed in large pieces of luggage. According to the DEA Newark Division, Mexican criminal groups sometimes transport cocaine into New Jersey in tractor-trailers hauling commercial goods such as produce and other perishable items that are difficult to inspect. A variety of other criminal groups and independent dealers also transport cocaine into New Jersey. Most of the powdered cocaine transported into the state is converted into crack locally.
Colombian drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) and criminal groups and Dominican criminal groups are the primary wholesale-level distributors of cocaine in New Jersey. African American and Dominican criminal groups are the primary distributors of cocaine at the retail level. Colombian, Puerto Rican, Jamaican, Mexican, Cuban, and other criminal groups also distribute retail quantities of cocaine in the state, although to a lesser extent. Most retail-level distributors control "cut houses" (where drugs are diluted, or cut), storefronts, and open-air drug markets in Camden, Elizabeth, Irvington, Jersey City, Newark, and Trenton as well as in other areas of the state. Powdered and crack cocaine typically are packaged in small plastic bags or plastic vials and sold at open-air drug markets. Some dealers, particularly in Newark, sell powdered and crack cocaine in bottles with different colored caps indicative of a specific street corner or area. Crack also is sold loose, as rocks.
Cocaine, particularly crack, is the drug most often associated with violent crime in New Jersey. Federal, state, and local law enforcement officials in the state report that dealers frequently carry firearms and commit drive-by shootings, assaults, and murders. Further, according to the NDTS 2003, 49.5 percent of New Jersey law enforcement agencies identified cocaine, either powdered (15%) or crack (34.5%), as the drug that most contributes to violent crime. The Camden and Essex County Narcotics Task Forces report major increases in the number of cocaine-related homicides in their areas in 2003. As of June 5, 2003, there were 27 drug-related homicides in Camden County and 60 in Essex County; most were attributed to powdered or crack cocaine distribution.
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