DEA Briefs & Background, Drugs and Drug Abuse, State Factsheets, Texas
State Prison Population: 168,105
Probation Population: 428,773
Violent Crime Rate
National Ranking: 12
2008 Federal Drug Seizures
Cocaine: 9,487.6 kgs.
Methamphetamine: 783.6 kgs.
Marijuana: 570,793.1 kgs.
Hashish: 0.5 kgs.
MDMA: 0.0 kgs./69,341 du
Meth Lab Incidents: 112 (DEA, state, and local)
Drug Situation: The DEA Dallas Field Division (DFD) encompasses roughly the northern half of the State of Texas (121 of the state’s 254 counties), as well as the entire state of Oklahoma - a combined area of approximately 174,743 square miles. 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 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 133 agents, who cover an area that includes 20 Ports-of-Entry (POE) and USBP Checkpoints, 9 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 2.2 million people inhabit the El Paso/Juarez borderplex. Over 1.5 million people reside in Juarez.
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, 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. Although bulk currency is moved south over the international bridges to Mexico, the city of El Paso has significant amounts of drug proceeds 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, encompassing Big Bend Corridor, a transshipment route for drugs entering the U.S. from Northeast Mexico. These shipments travel 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, and intersects 3 major east-west Interstate highways: I-10, I-20, and I-40. It is estimated that as much as 30% of the container shipments will be diverted from California ports to Mexican ports. 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 is expected to provide not only daily passenger train service but also freight service between Mexico and the U.S.
Cocaine: 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 an 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: 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. Crack poses the greatest threat to school children, as 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: 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. The average heroin purity level for the Dallas Field Division has gradually fallen for four consecutive quarters, from a peak of 67% to 15% during the first quarter of FY2007.
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. 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 there is a developing trend of heroin distributors crossing 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 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: Availability of methamphetamine remains high in north Texas, and the pace of enforcement activities surrounding methamphetamine continues to escalate. However, Mexican manufactured methamphetamine now dominates the market in the Dallas Field Division. New Texas laws restricting the purchase of pseudoephedrine products went into effect in late 2005, resulting in a 73% decrease in clandestine lab seizures in the Dallas Field Division. Most of the Mexican manufactured methamphetamine transported to the region comes from Mexico, California, and Arizona through traditional means, such as passenger and commercial vehicles.
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 Houston, 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 Austin. 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. Small, clandestine laboratories are popular in the area, especially in remote, rural locations in New Mexico. 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 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: 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, specifically 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 Dallas/Fort Worth area. 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 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 area covered by the Division. Raves are a primary venue for MDMA distribution, in addition to clubs and gyms. The number and frequency of raves throughout the area has increased. Other dangerous drugs readily available and transported through Houston 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: 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. Oxycontin has surpassed hydrocodone as the drug of choice for abusers seeking pharmaceuticals in the Tyler area. The most commonly abused pharmaceutical drugs in Houston continue to be Hydrocodone, Promethazine with Codeine and other Codeine cough syrups, and 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 San Antonio 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 pilferage, 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. Within the Houston Field Division, one of the newer avenues for the diversion of of pharmaceutical controlled substances is Internet pharmacies. Mexican border town pharmacies remain an important source of illegal pharmaceuticals seized in the Houston Field Division. 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.
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 lead to the identification and seizure of assets used to facilitate drug smuggling operations. Currency seizures also indicate that New Mexico is being utilized to return drug proceeds to Mexico and to 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, there are 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.
Bulk currency smuggling is the most popular and effective means employed in transporting drug related proceeds to criminal organizations based in northern Mexico. It is not unusual for state and local police officers to make seizures of hundreds of thousands or millions of “narco” dollars, headed southbound through Texas.
Marijuana: Marijuana remains readily available and is considered the most widely used illegal drug throughout the State of Texas. Marijuana loads seized from private vehicles and semi-tractor trailers range from 230 to 3,636 kilograms. Multi-pound and multi-ton marijuana seizures occur at all transportation terminals, U. S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP) checkpoints, and local courier service locations. Marijuana is readily available in the El Paso area and is the traffickers’ drug of choice for transshipment through the El Paso/Juarez corridor into the U.S., as well as for local consumption. Many of the Division’s marijuana investigations originate from the BCBP checkpoints located around El Paso.
Transportation Threat: The volume of illicit drugs transported through Texas by land, sea, and air is immense. Tons of drugs pass through Texas and 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 several of the Division's initiatives. The majority of cases for the El Paso Division involve the transportation of drugs. In addition, the division is responsible for responding to a multitude of Border Patrol Checkpoints located throughout the division’s area of responsibility.
Pharmaceutical Diversion: Current investigations indicate that diversion of hydrocodone products and pseudoephedrine continues to be a problem in Texas. Primary methods of diversion being reported are illegal sale and distribution by health care professionals and workers, “doctor shopping” (going to a number of doctors to obtain prescriptions for a controlled pharmaceutical), forged prescriptions, pharmacy theft, and the Internet. Benzodiazepines, OxyContin®, Prometh® w/codeine, fentanyl, Tussionex®, Lortab®/Lorcet®, ketamine, Buprenex®, and phentermine were also identified as being among the most commonly abused and diverted pharmaceuticals in Texas.
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. Since the inception of the MET Program, 473 deployments have been completed nationwide, resulting in 19,643 arrests. There are three DEA Division offices in Texas: Dallas, El Paso, and Houston. Combined, these three divisions have completed 41 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 (2), Terrell, Mt. Pleasant, Henderson, Corsicana, Ferris, 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, Montgomery County, Dickinson/Galveston County, and Marlin.