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Texas, the "Lone Star State" has long been synonymous with "independence," due to its former status as a republic, and for its struggle for secession from Mexico. At 268,596 square miles, it's the second largest state in the United States, behind only Alaska, and with 25.1 million people, (according to the 2010 U.S. Census) it's the second most populous after California. The saying goes that "Everything's bigger in Texas," and unfortunately, this is also true of its growing drug and alcohol addiction problem.
Much like the rest of the United States, drug addiction has blown through Texas like a hurricane, laying waste to whole communities and decimating families. But unlike much of the country, Texas is on the very front line of the war against drugs and is at an unique disadvantage because of its location. Texas and Mexico share 1,254 miles of common border, where ruthless drug cartels will stop at nothing to move their various products (illegal drugs) clandestinely into the States for sale. Texas has had to face the drug problem on their home soil, and it's come at a tremendous cost.
When we widen our lens and take a look at all forms of substance abuse across Texas, the numbers give cause for concern. These drugs are stealing our family members, our sons, our daughters, and our very future. Statewide, accidental poisoning (most commonly due to drug overdose) is the third-leading cause of death in Texas, just behind suicide and car crashes. And almost one-third (31.4%) of these deaths are either youth or young adults (ages 15-34).
Heroin indicators show a growing and alarming problem, particularly among teenagers and young adults. 1.1% of Texas secondary students report using heroin at least once, and in a 2013 report, Texas had 319 heroin poisoning deaths.
The primary types of heroin in Texas are Mexican black tar and powdered brown (which is black tar combined with diphenhydramine or other ingredients.) Black tar heroin is very common and is sold in baggies by dealers on street corners, similar to how crack cocaine is sold. Seizures of heroin in El Paso have risen sharply over the last few years, which signals an increase in local smuggling. (Abusers often cross to Ciudad Juarez to obtain their supply.)
The good news for Texans struggling with drug and alcohol addiction is that help is only a few clicks away. The Lonestar State is awash in resources, whether you just need counseling, or full-on detox services. All it takes is the courage to take the first, terrifying step.
Texas State Facts
Texas Population: 20,844,340
Law Enforcement Officers in Texas: 63,703
Texas Prison Population: 210,900
Texas Probation Population: 443,682
Violent Crime Rate National Ranking: 11
2004 Federal Drug Seizures in Texas
Cocaine: 15,036.7 kgs.
Heroin: 207.0 kgs.
Methamphetamine: 673.5 kgs.
Marijuana: 460,672.3 kgs.
Ecstasy: 137,752 tablets
Methamphetamine Laboratories: 321 (DEA, state, and local)
Texas Drug Situation: The greater Dallas/Fort Worth area serves primarily as a drug distribution and transshipment area. Drug smuggling and transportation are dominated by major Mexican trafficking organizations. These groups are poly-drug organizations smuggling methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and marijuana to the Dallas/Fort Worth area for distribution in the Eastern, Southeastern, and Midwestern United States. The Division's central location, and its physical and cultural proximity to the Mexican Border, provide a natural advantage for drug distribution/transshipment throughout the United States.
Due to its geographical location and extensive transportation infrastructure, the Houston Field Division continues to be a primary transshipment area for the bulk importation of most major categories of drugs to include marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine. Drug smuggling and illicit transportation are primarily dominated by Mexican, Colombian and Dominican poly-drug trafficking organizations.
The El Paso Division area-of-responsibility covers 54 counties in West Texas and New Mexico, comprising 778 miles, which is approximately 40% of the U.S./Mexico Border. The Division has 117 agents, who cover an area that includes 18 Ports-of-Entry (POE) and USBP Checkpoints, 6 of which are in New Mexico, in addition to an estimated minimum of 80 illegal crossing points. Some of these locations are over 100 miles from our offices.
This area of the Southwest is unique because of our location on the U.S./Mexico border. El Paso and its sister city, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, comprise the largest metropolitan area on the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Nearly 2 million people inhabit the El Paso/Juarez borderplex. Over 1.2 million people reside in Juarez. Daily, over 100,000 people cross the POEs into El Paso. Since the formation of NAFTA, commercial truck crossings from Mexico into West Texas and New Mexico have risen 11.7%, from 666,225 trucks in 1999 to 744,407 in 2002. Pedestrian traffic has risen 55%, from 6.2 million in 1999 to 9.6 million in 2002. A reduction in the amount of private vehicle traffic was seen in 2002, due to heightened security after September 11, 2001. However, 15.3 million vehicles still crossed our borders in 2002. During a normal day, a vehicle can wait up to one hour to cross the border. During periods of heightened security each private vehicle is inspected.
The introduction of NAFTA had a major impact on the El Paso/Juarez area. The people crossing the international bridges on a daily basis and the large transportation industry available in this area (air, bus, trucking and rail) provide drug traffickers with innumerable drug and money smuggling opportunities. Rural, desert-like areas in New Mexico and West Texas, whether they be large ranches or National Park land backing up to the border, or some easily crossed places along the Rio Grande offer tremendous smuggling opportunities to drug trafficking organizations.
West Texas serves as the gateway for narcotics destined to major metropolitan areas in the U.S., which is commonly referred to as the El Paso/Juarez Corridor. Sources-of-supply (SOS) from Mexico move significant quantities of marijuana and cocaine through the POEs using major east/west and north/south interstate highways that crisscross through the El Paso Division. These highways provide the traffickers with transportation routes for distribution of drugs throughout the country. Drug traffickers also obtain warehouses in El Paso for stash locations and recruit drivers from the area to transport the narcotics to various destinations throughout the U.S. Additional threats to the region are the shipments of controlled substances via commercial vehicles, including aircraft, buses, and by Amtrak rail. EL Paso is also considered a hub for significant amounts of drug proceeds being laundered through small businesses.
The Alpine, Texas Resident Office covers 22,609 miles, 315 of which are directly on the Southwest Border. This area is largely rural and sparsely populated and includes the Big Bend Corridor, a transshipment route for drugs entering the U.S. from Northeast Mexico en route to Midland/Odessa and other cities in the U.S. Criminal organizations based in Chihuahua, Mexico maintain command and control elements in the Midland/Odessa area to the north, and in the border towns of Presidio and Redford to the south. Higher echelon members of the criminal organizations are often extended family members, making penetration of those organizations extremely difficult.
The Mexican Government is building 4-lane "La Entrada al Pacifico" highway (95% complete) which will serve as a northeast/southwest trade route from the port city of Topolobampo, Sinaloa, Mexico, through the Presidio, Texas POE, intersecting 3 major east-west Interstates: I-10, I-20, and I-40. It is estimated that as much as 30 % of the truck traffic will be diverted from California and El Paso POEs to Presidio. This highway begins at a deep-water Pacific Ocean port that is over 500 miles closer, and much less congested than the Port of Los Angeles. This completed route will save up to four shipping days for goods moving between the Pacific Rim countries and Texas.
Additionally, the South Orient Railroad (purchased by the State of Texas in 2001), was leased for 40 years to Nuevo Grupo, Mexico, and in the near future is expected to provide not only daily passenger train service but also freight service between Mexico and the U.S.
Cocaine in Texas: North Texas is a distribution and transshipment area for cocaine that is distributed via passenger vehicles and tractor-trailers to destinations in the Midwestern, Northern and Eastern U.S. Intelligence indicates that organizations operating on the East Coast are interested in setting up operation in the greater Dallas area in order to obtain reliable supplies of cocaine at a lower price than what they pay on the East Coast. The Houston Division is a major transshipment, distribution and consumption center for Colombian cocaine. The narcotics are either shipped directly to Texas or transshipped through Mexico. Illicit transporters favor the exploitation of the commercial trucking industry to move bulk (multi-hundred kilogram) quantities of Colombian cocaine through the Houston Division. Smaller loads are routinely seized from privately owned vehicles or from couriers utilizing busses or the airlines. The El Paso/Juarez corridor serves as a transshipment point for cocaine to various locations in the U.S. Seized loads range from 50-800 pounds. Cocaine is the drug of choice among users in New Mexico and the availability is high. The El Paso/Juarez corridor is the route primarily used to transport cocaine to Albuquerque and is distributed to other parts of the State from there. Cocaine is transported through New Mexico by MDTOs at an increasing rate. Multiple kilogram quantities are routinely seized from commercial trucks, public transportation and private vehicles. The most common seizures occur when couriers are interdicted on public transportation with two to three kilograms of cocaine carried on their body. Cocaine is also readily available for distribution throughout New Mexico in gram to ounce quantities for local consumption. Local law enforcement authorities consistently rank cocaine and crack cocaine distribution and use as their number one drug problem.
Crack in Texas: Throughout the metropolitan areas of Dallas and Fort Worth, crack cocaine remains popular and easily attainable. The Dallas metropolitan area serves as the primary distribution point for crack to outlying areas in North Texas as well as the states of Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi. Crack is readily available throughout the Houston Division. It is produced locally. Crack is trafficked by local organizations along the I-10 corridor in east Texas to western Louisiana. There is ample availability of "crack" cocaine in El Paso, where its use is considered low to moderate. In Midland, Texas, crack cocaine use and distribution is at a level that is considered dangerous to the quality of life. The crack cocaine abuse is a primary concern to both local and federal law enforcement agencies in the Midland/Odessa area. Crack cocaine is readily available throughout New Mexico, but is most prevalent in urban areas. The majority of the crack available comes from powder cocaine supplied by MDTOs to local crack distributors who then convert the powder cocaine into crack. Ethnic gangs are the primary distributors of crack cocaine in urban areas. It poses the greatest threat to school children. Street level distributors can be found in all social and economic layers of the community. Of special concern is the high level of violence associated with crack cocaine traffickers.
Heroin in Texas: Mexican black tar (MBT) heroin remains the primary heroin threat in North Texas. MBT heroin is readily available throughout North Texas. Based on intelligence, the greater Dallas Fort Worth area is a distribution point for MBT heroin shipped to the Eastern, Southeastern, and Midwestern United States. Analysis of MBT heroin seizures indicates an overall rise in purity of 22% when comparing FY 2002 MBT seizures to FY 2001 MBT heroin seizures. Over the past year, intelligence indicates an increase in the availability of Colombian and Southwest Asian (SWA) heroin in the greater Dallas area. Mexican black tar and brown heroin are routinely seized in south Texas. In recent years, the Houston Field Division has been identified as a transshipment point for kilogram quantities of Colombian heroin destined for the east coast. Small quantities of Asian heroin are sporadically encountered in south Texas, smuggled in via courier or seized from the mail. Within the last year, there has been a noticeable increase in the availability and purity of Mexican heroin in south Texas. Between August and November of 2002, a number of fatal overdoses were documented in the Laredo and Corpus Christi areas. These deaths have been attributed to the ingestion of high purity Mexican heroin. Mexican black tar and brown heroin are routinely seized at the POEs in El Paso County. Black tar heroin has long been available in this region from sources in the Mexican States of Durango and Chihuahua. Heroin is most commonly smuggled in secret compartments in private vehicles and concealed on persons. The heroin is usually carried across the border by couriers; however, lately a developing trend has been seen where heroin distributors will cross the border with their supply. Heroin availability has shown a steady increase over the past five years as evidenced by the increase in kilogram seizures and a steady decrease in price. Enforcement operations have, for a time, significantly disrupted the availability of street level quantities of heroin in the area and briefly reduced the number of overdoses and overdose deaths. However, in part because heroin use is socially and culturally accepted in the area, the heroin issue consistently reappears.
Methamphetamine in Texas: Availability of methamphetamine remains high in North Texas, and the pace of enforcement activities surrounding methamphetamine continues to escalate. Mexican manufactured methamphetamine is transported to the region through traditional means, such as passenger and commercial vehicles. Additionally, small clandestine labs that produce small amounts of extremely high quality methamphetamine are encountered in both rural and urban areas. Recent intelligence and seizure analysis indicates an increased availability of high purity methamphetamine in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex area. Because of the increased demand, greater availability, and expanding market, the high purity methamphetamine threat will probably increase.
The availability of both Mexican methamphetamine and locally produced methamphetamine in the Houston Division is increasing. Mexican methamphetamine is the primary type found in the Division. It is transported in multi-pound quantities directly from Mexico or from Mexico via California. From Houston, methamphetamine is also distributed to the Midwest and the East Coast. In the Houston area, crystallized Methamphetamine (ICE) is being sold in local clubs and is also being offered by Mexican traffickers. Domestically produced methamphetamine continues to be manufactured by motorcycle gangs and independent producers in small batches using pseudoephedrine, anhydrous ammonia, red phosphorous, iodine, lithium batteries, or muriatic acid. There are numerous labs operating in East Texas, Corpus Christi, and in the Austin area. Most of these labs are small, mobile pseudoephedrine labs that produce small amounts for distribution in the local area.
Methamphetamine poses a multi-pronged threat in this region. It is available in multiple kilogram quantities. The majority of methamphetamine seized originates in Mexico, but arrives in New Mexico from distributors in Los Angeles, CA and Phoenix, AZ. Methamphetamine investigations are especially prevalent in the area known as the Four Corners Region where the States of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet to form a common border and along the eastern New Mexico/Texas border. Popular in the area are the small, clandestine laboratories, set up, especially in New Mexico, in remote, rural locations. In Southern New Mexico, closer to Las Cruces and El Paso, the current preferred process is the "Birch method", that uses chemicals, such as anhydrous ammonia, to process the methamphetamine. Use of the "Birch method" is believed to be an attempt by small laboratory operators to acquire non-controlled chemicals for production, in order to subvert law enforcement scrutiny. Recent intelligence analysis indicates increased seizures of more “Mom and Pop” methamphetamine labs in the El Paso Division. It is cheaper to produce methamphetamine for your own use versus buying it on the street.
Predatory/Club Drugs in Texas: Club drugs remain readily available in North Texas. The most frequently abused of club drugs is "Ecstasy" (MDMA). Intelligence indicates the increased abuse of Ecstasy among 18 to 24 year old African Americans, especially, in the greater Dallas area. Asians continue to be involved in the sale and distribution of MDMA. Intelligence further indicates increased interest among Mexican traffickers to distribute and sell Ecstasy in the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area. FY 2000 through FY 2002 statistics analyzed by DEA laboratories show a 1540% increase in seizure amounts of MDMA. The Dallas FD is currently ranked 2nd, nationally, for GHB and Rohypnol emergency room visits and above national average, in its emergency room visits for MDMA, Ketamine, LSD and PCP. The majority of the MDMA available in the Houston Division continues to originate in Europe, specifically from Belgium and the Netherlands. MDMA is most commonly transported via courier through the airlines. Recent reporting from Monterrey, Mexico, shows northern Mexico to be an emerging source for MDMA production. The availability and popularity of MDMA is increasing in the Division. Raves are a primary venue for MDMA distribution, as are clubs and gyms. The number and frequency of raves throughout the Division has increased. Other dangerous drugs readily available and transported through the Houston Division include Rohypnol, Ketamine, GHB, LSD, and PCP. Several drugs in this category are more available, due, in part, to El Paso's close proximity to Juarez, Mexico, where purchases can be made over the counter from unscrupulous pharmacists. Ecstasy, Rohypnol, and other pharmaceuticals are being used at Rave parties in El Paso County. The use of these types of drugs has not skyrocketed, as in other metropolitan areas in the U.S. These same drugs are available in New Mexico.
Prescription Drugs in Texas: The most common methods of diversion of pharmaceutical controlled substances continue to be illegal and indiscriminate prescribing and "doctor shopping." Hydrocodone, alprazolam, and benzodiazepene products continue to comprise the majority of prescription controlled drugs abused in North Texas; however, Oxycontin has overtaken hydrocodone as the drug of choice for abusers seeking pharmaceuticals in the Tyler area. The most commonly abused pharmaceutical drugs in the Houston Division continue to be Hydrocodone, Promethazine with Codeine and other Codeine cough syrups, and some Benzodiazepines (mostly Alprazolam). Oxycontin abuse is on the increase, with most illegal prescriptions being written by pain management doctors. In addition to the aforementioned, commonly abused pharmaceutical drugs in the San Antonio area include Morphine, Dilaudid, Diazepam, Xanax, Tussionex, Lortab, Vicodin, and Ketamine. The major avenues for diversion continue to be illegal and indiscriminate prescribing and dispensing, pharmacy theft, employee pilfering, and forged prescriptions. The diversion of prescription drugs continues to be a significant enforcement issue. Illegal or improper prescription practices are the primary source for illegally obtained prescription drugs, primarily in the oxycodone/hydrocodone families. Interdiction efforts also indicate that prescription drug smuggling from Mexico, where these drugs can be sold over the counter, contributes to the illegal distribution of prescription medications. Compounding this issue, is the state's severe shortage of qualified medical personnel which forces state authorities to grant prescriptive authority to practitioners not licensed in other states. New Mexico has recently become one of the few states to grant prescribing authority to psychologists who have no medical or pharmaceutical training.
Texas Drug Proceeds: The transportation route through the West Texas/New Mexico area includes drugs coming into the U.S. and money being sent back to Mexico. These drug proceeds are difficult to trace and seize. Money is often laundered through legitimate businesses and money exchange houses. Conducting financial investigations leading to the identification and seizure of assets used to facilitate drug smuggling operations, or acquired as a benefit of such an enterprise, is an effective deterrent. Currency seizures also indicate that New Mexico is being utilized to return drug proceeds to Mexico and to the wholesale distributors in Arizona and California. Two areas of concern for money laundering activities in the state include:
Approximately 14 Native American owned and operated casinos that handle billions
of dollars in cash and almost completely unregulated by state and Federal authorities.
In Las Cruces, New Mexico, less than 50 miles from the US/Mexico border, has over 200 banking facilities, including many that operate from private residences and are not FDIC insured. Cities of similar size averaged 5-10 banking facilities.
Marijuana: Marijuana remains readily available and is considered the most widely used illegal drug throughout the State of Texas. Marijuana in this area is primarily imported from the Texas/Mexico border via privately owned vehicles (POV) and commercial trucks. Large quantities of marijuana are routinely seized by all levels of law enforcement during highway interdiction stops in the North Texas area. Additionally, in recent years, increased enforcement activity has lead to the seizure of several significant indoor marijuana cultivation operations in the North Texas area. These operations range in size from 100 to over 1100 plants and have produced marijuana with THC levels as high as 15%. Mexican marijuana is the most predominantly trafficked drug in the Houston Division. It is not uncommon for the US Border Patrol to make multi-hundred pound marijuana seizures from "back packers" at points along the Rio Grande River, and from vehicles transiting at the US Border Patrol secondary checkpoints located inside Texas. At the Ports of Entry, ton quantity seizures of marijuana are often made from commercial trucking attempting to enter the United States.
Texas Drug Transportation Threat: The volume of illicit drugs transported through Texas by land, sea, and air is immense. Although there is a significant drug abuse problem in Texas, more tons pass through the state than are delivered for local consumption. Poly-drug transportation groups pose the greatest threat to Southern Texas. Most drugs are transported through Texas on their way to the major consumer markets of the Midwest and the eastern United States. Drug related proceeds are then transported back through Texas in bulk quantities to Mexico and points beyond. Illicit transportation organizations, like legitimate shipping firms, move whatever product is contracted for by the drug distribution organizations for delivery to the consumer markets. These groups, have been targeted by the Houston Division and are the focal point of this Division's Transportation Initiative. The majority of cases for the El Paso Division are in the transportation of drugs. The Sierra Blanca, Texas checkpoint currently has law enforcement officials that only perform checkpoint responses. Recently there has been an increase in seizures and cases coming from this checkpoint.
Prescription Drug Diversion in Texas: The most common methods of diversion of pharmaceutical controlled substances continue to be illegal and indiscriminate prescribing and “doctor shopping.” OxyContin abuse is on the increase.
DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams: This cooperative program with state and local law enforcement counterparts was conceived in 1995 in response to the overwhelming problem of drug-related violent crime in towns and cities across the nation. There have been 409 deployments completed resulting in 16,763 arrests of violent drug criminals as of February 2004. There are three DEA Division offices in Texas: Dallas, El Paso, and Houston. Combined, these three divisions have completed 37 Mobile Enforcement Team (MET) deployments throughout the State of Texas since the inception of the program. These cities are: Arlington, Wichita Falls, Tyler, Athens (2), Paris, Greenville, Terrell, Mt. Pleasant, Henderson, Corsicana, Brownwood, Ft. Worth (2), Sherman, Texarkana, Grand Prairie, Odessa, Midland, El Paso (2), Galveston, Orange County, Port Arthur, East Harris County, Freeport, Kingsville, Corpus Christie, Victoria, Tomball, Nacogdoches, Humble, Huntsville, Smith County, Monahans/Odessa, Richmond, and Montgomery County.
DEA Regional Enforcement Teams: This program was designed to augment existing DEA division resources by targeting drug organizations operating in the United States where there is a lack of sufficient local drug law enforcement. This Program was conceived in 1999 in response to the threat posed by drug trafficking organizations that have established networks of cells to conduct drug trafficking operations in smaller, non-traditional trafficking locations in the United States. Nationwide, there have been 22 deployments completed resulting in 608 arrests of drug trafficking criminals as of February 2004. There have been four RET deployments in the State of Texas since the inception of the program: McAllen, Laredo, Dallas, and El Paso.