Mexican Drug Traffickers Increasing Operations in D.C. Area, Says Intel Assessment

By Ryan Byrnes | January 22, 2009 | 7:57 PM EST

Mexican soldiers inspect a house where marijuana plants being grown were found in Tijuana, Mexico, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009. Special forces soldiers found some 170 marijuana plants, in a room used as a greenhouse, and detained a suspect. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias)

( - Mexican drug syndicates, determined by the Justice Department to be the greatest organized crime threat to the United States, have ongoing operations in the Washington, D.C., area, that are expected to increase in the coming year, according an analysis produced in June by the Justice Department’s National Drug Intelligence Center.
The 2008 Drug Market Analysis for the Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) says Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) transport and distribute most of the marijuana and methamphetamine in the region and that the groups are becoming increasingly involved in the transportation and distribution of the area’s cocaine and heroin supply.
The Washington/Baltimore HIDTA includes Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Md., and nine Virginia and Maryland counties surrounding the two cities, plus Richmond, Va., and four counties surrounding that city.
Mexican DTOs and criminal groups are the primary wholesale distributors of commercial-grade marijuana in the W/B HIDTA region, while Vietnamese criminal groups with ties to Asian DTOs in Canada have emerged as the principal distributors
of high-potency marijuana in the region,” says the analysis.
“Most of the methamphetamine available in the W/B HIDTA region is transported to the area by Mexican DTOs from Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas,” it says.
The drug assessment said Mexican DTOs are expected to increase the amount of drugs they bring to market in the Washington/Baltimore region in 2009.
“Mexican DTOs, operating primarily out of transshipment centers in Georgia and North Carolina, will most likely increase their wholesale distribution of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and, to a lesser extent, methamphetamine, in the HIDTA region in the coming year,” says the report. “These organizations have well-established transportation and distribution networks which will enable them to supply wholesale quantities of illicit drugs to the region.”
“Declining local methamphetamine production and the growing presence of Mexican DTOs in the HIDTA region may lead to increased availability of Mexican ice methamphetamine,” says the report. “Mexican DTOs already dominate the transportation and wholesale distribution of other illicit drugs in the region, using well-established routes and methods that would easily allow them to increase the flow of ice methamphetamine to the region should demand increase.”
“The growing Hispanic population in the region has enabled Colombian, Dominican, Mexican and, increasingly, Guatemalan and Salvadorian criminal groups and gangs with ties to drug source and transit countries to operate more easily,” the assessment said.
Officials say the threat is nothing new, but that it is a serious public safety concern.
“Mexican drug trafficking organizations have been established, essentially, across the entire nation for years,” said Dean Boyd, a representative with the Justice Department. “The narcotics threat is one that is ongoing. It is alarming and it is a public safety concern.”
Boyd said that law enforcement organizations in the Washington/Baltimore HIDTA have a number of programs in place designed to prevent drug use and drug crime in the area.
Garrison Courtney, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration, said Mexican drug syndicates have established marijuana-growth facilities in southern cities such as Atlanta and Miami which have made transporting the drug to eastern cities easier.
Though Courtney said Colombian cartels still dominate the local heroin industry, the drug assessment said Mexican traffickers are becoming increasingly involved in the transportation and distribution of heroin in southern Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley.
Courtney said that while the threat of drugs is not specific to the Washington area, it is an issue that will require the attention of both society and government.
“People need to be aware that the drugs are here,” he said. “If we’re not vigilant and we don’t work together as law enforcement agencies, the problem will have the chance to get worse.”