Fed drug report: Double trouble for metro Chicago

Only area in the nation with two major illegal drug zones
June 10, 2009 It features not just one "High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area," it has two, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center.

The agency on Wednesday identified Chicago and the suburbs as one High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and the Lake County, Indiana, environs as another. In all, the report, produced at the request of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, cites 32 regions in the U.S. as havens for illicit drug distribution. Metro Chicago is the only area with two of the drug trafficking zones.

The federal investigation of Chicago's drug trade in 2008 found that "gang-related murders in Chicago, often resulting from drug-related disputes, increased 36.3 percent from 2007 (168 murders) through 2008 (229 murders). Street gang drug distribution operations are concentrated in urban areas of Chicago; however, suburban law enforcement agencies, many of which lack sufficient resources, report an increasing presence of Chicago gang members who distribute drugs in their jurisdictions. Officials attribute the movement of gang members from Chicago to suburban areas to several factors: the breakdown of traditional hierarchical gang structures, the razing of some large Chicago public housing projects, an abundance of wholesale illicit drug suppliers, and the expectation of high profits from new suburban drug operations."

According to the report, Chicago street gang members run a network of legitimate businesses and have engineered mortgage fraud schemes, both to launder drug proceeds. Cash-based businesses such as beauty salons, car washes and used car lots are to commingle drug proceeds with legitimate business revenue, say authorities. The mortgage fraud schemes are said to involve straw purchasers and unscrupulous mortgage brokers and appraisers to purchase property at a minimal cost and sell it at a higher value to a third party.

The Chicago drug region is composed of Cook, Grundy, Kendall and Will counties and comprises more than 6.1 million residents—nearly half of the population of Illinois. The Chicago metropolitan area is one of the nation's largest drug markets and a national-level distribution center for cocaine, heroin and marijuana available in the Midwest and the eastern United States. Cook County, which includes the city of Chicago, is second only to Los Angeles County, California, as the most populated county in the United States. According to U.S. Census estimates, Kendall County and Will County are two of the fastest-growing counties in the United States; those populations have grown 77.5 percent and 34.1 percent, respectively, from 2000 through 2007.


Even as the economy collapses in the region, the federal reports states that in 2008 "twelfth-grade students in the region report higher rates of lifetime, annual, and monthly use of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and MDMA than do their peers statewide. Drug use rates among adolescents in the Northwest region of Indiana (Lake, Jasper, Newton, Porter, Pulaski, and Starke Counties) are significantly higher than statewide rates. The reported lifetime, annual, and monthly rates of use for marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and MDMA among twelfth-grade students were higher in the Northwest region than were rates of use in any of the other seven regions in the state. IPRC survey data from 2006 to 2008 of lifetime drug use by twelfth-graders in the Northwest Region show that marijuana is the most widely abused drug among twelfth graders. For example, 42.0 percent of twelfth-grade students surveyed in the Northwest region in 2008 indicated that they have used marijuana in their lifetime, much higher than for cocaine (8.8 percent), MDMA (8.6 percent), or heroin (2.5 percent).

"The national economic downturn is affecting the retail-level illicit drug market in the Lake County HIDTA region. Law enforcement officials report that illicit drug abusers in economically depressed areas of the HIDTA region are increasingly abusing marijuana because it is relatively inexpensive and easy to obtain. Furthermore, some crack cocaine dealers in Hammond are packaging and selling smaller rocks of crack cocaine at a lower price that customers can afford. This marketing technique is most likely a response to weak economic conditions in the area."

Investigators have found that as the appetite for illicit drugs surges in Lake County and NW Indiana, "Chicago-based drug trafficking groups are expanding operations into Lake County. Mexican drug trafficking organizations and Chicago street gangs have strengthened their transportation and distribution networks in Lake County and other areas of northern Indiana. In 2008 the Lake County Combined Task Force seized Vietnamese indoor cannabis grow, indicating a possible expansion of Vietnamese marijuana production networks from Chicago to Lake County."

The report provides policymakers, resource planners and law enforcement officials with a focused discussion of key drug-related issues and developments. According to a Justice Dept. statement, the "NDIC Intelligence Analysts prepared these reports through detailed collection and analysis of statistical data, information from law enforcement and public health officials, and other information to highlight significant trends and law enforcement concerns related to the trafficking and abuse of illicit drugs" and has distributed the intelligence to all appropriate federal, state, and local government and law enforcement agencies, as well as intelligence organizations engaged in counternarcotics and drug control."

The 32 DMAs listed below are available on line with complete details at: http://www.usdoj.gov/ndic/topics/dmas.htm

Appalachia HIDTA
New England HIDTA
Arizona HIDTA
New Mexico HIDTA
Atlanta HIDTA
New York/New Jersey HIDTA
California Border Alliance Group
North Florida HIDTA
Central Valley California HIDTA
North Texas HIDTA
Central Florida HIDTA
Northern California HIDTA
Chicago HIDTA
Northwest HIDTA
Gulf Coast HIDTA
Hawaii HIDTA
Oregon HIDTA
Houston HIDTA
Philadelphia/Camden HIDTA
Lake County HIDTA
Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands HIDTA
Los Angeles HIDTA
Rocky Mountain HIDTA
Michigan HIDTA
South Florida HIDTA
Midwest HIDTA
South Texas HIDTA
Milwaukee HIDTA
Washington/Baltimore HIDTA
Nevada HIDTA
West Texas HIDTA

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