Florida has always been a major hub for international drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. Its location, surrounding geography, large coastline, short distance to the West Indies and South America and multitude of ethnic groups has made it a haven for drug trafficking. Florida remains the major thoroughfare for cocaine and heroin shipment into the northeastern United States and Canada.
Despite the heighten security since 9/11, Miami International Airport still remains a prime area for smuggling in heroin and MDMA. Once inside Florida, almost every county has been infiltrated with local drug smugglers and traffickers. Smuggling in the State occurs via various types of automobiles, trucks, vans, boats, cargo freighters and by private and commercial aircraft. Additionally, transportation via the interstates is a major method of trans-state distribution. The Florida drug trade is under control of the Mexican and Columbian drug organizations. All drugs are widely abused in the State, but Methamphetamine remains the most cherished.
Cocaine remains the common drug abused in Florida. The majority of cocaine is smuggled into the state via the air, sea and interstates. Every type of imaginable method of transport has been used to bring the drug into Florida. Once smuggled into Florida, the drug is repackaged and shipped to the North East. Much of the interstate transfer is via automobiles, cars; van, trucks and campers with secrete hidden compartments.
Much of the cocaine brought into Florida arrives via the West Indies. Large seizures are common along the Caribbean corridor and vigilance by law enforcement is at an all-time high.
Crack Cocaine is the form preferred by the drug abusers and remains a major threat to all Florida cities. Associated with crack cocaine, is the gang related violence, homicides, robberies, inner city crime, poverty and prostitution. The distribution of crack cocaine throughout Florida is governed by a number of organizations. Much of the spread of crack cocaine within Florida is done via automobiles. Street gangs control the distribution of the drug within their territory.
Florida is a heaven for club drug usage. It leads the nation in seizures of MDMA. Florida remains the international hub for shipment of MDMA. The drugs are brought in from Europe, South America and even the West Indies. Because of its glamour, night life and club scene, MDMA continues to dominate the drug scene. It is widely used by college students and party goers. Almost all colleges in the state are deluged with club drugs. GHB, LSD and PCP are also readily available in Florida, especially in and around colleges and universities.
With a large tourist population, a large number of club drugs are also shipped, mailed, or smuggled into other states. Additionally, the annual "spring break" activities in the panhandle are a prime time for club drugs and reports indicate that users are becoming younger by the year.
Heroin is not the most popular drug but still is readily available throughout the State of Florida. The price, purity and consistency have remained the same for the past 2 decades. The majority of heroin comes in from South America and Mexico. The majority of heroin is then destined for other parts of the country. The heroin is either shipped in or brought in via air using private couriers.
Most heroin distribution and transportation organizations have ties to Colombia and New York and are active throughout Florida. Because of the increased vigilance at airport and interstates, drug traffickers have started to utilize parcel post to ship drugs across the country.
Once the heroin enters Florida, it is transported via automobiles, buses, and trains to the northeast United States.
Methamphetamine remains a major drug of abuse in all parts of Florida. The drug is smuggled into Florida by Mexican and California drug trafficking organizations based in California and Texas.
Also available is methamphetamine manufactured in clandestine laboratories. These numerous clandestine are a growing danger because of the explosive chemicals they use and the environmental pollution that they cause. Recently the Florida legislature has banned the use of ephedrine in cough mixtures to prevent the drug manufacturers from getting access to the precursor chemicals.
However, super methamphetamine laboratories have popped all over the country and are difficult to detect. Recent reports indicate that methamphetamine is a favored drug within the homosexual community. The primary distribution method of distributing methamphetamine is via the postal services.
Marijuana remains a major problem in Florida. The major source of marijuana is from the West Indies. The drug is usually smuggled in via go-fast boats and other private ships. In addition, home gown marijuana has also increased recently. Because of Florida’s temperate climate, this crop is available year around and grown all over the state.
Marijuana is also smuggled into the state from the neighboring states, Canada, South America Texas and Mexico. Marijuana is smuggled along Interstate-10 into the Panhandle and smugglers see this less monitored route to transport the drug. A significant amount of the marijuana trade is controlled by the West Indies gangs and they also play a role in shipment of the drug to the Northern USA.
Current investigations indicate that persion of hydrocodone products such as Vicodin, xanax, methadone, benzodiazepines and oxycodone products such as OxyContin continues to be a problem in Florida. The major method of obtaining these drugs is via the internet, illegal sale by physicians, pharmacists, doctor shopping, forged prescriptions, and employee theft. With a lucrative market, fake prescriptions have also infiltrated the market.
Miami is a major center for financial institutions and ranks number one in the volume of commercial banks and foreign corporations that are chartered by the Federal Reserve to engage in international banking. Because of the major drug trafficking that occurs in the state, money laundering has been a major problem and legislation has passed laws to monitor and govern all financial transactions. The Florida government is well aware of financial transactions that occur and seizures are not uncommon. Most of the seizures of drug money have been from inpiduals who leave Florida for South America. The most common concealment methods were in luggage, clothing and body carrying.
With the recent explosion in clandestine methamphetamine laboratories, Florida legislation established the Florida Statewide Methamphetamine Strategy. The law has helped create regional teams to provide guidance to law enforcement agencies to improve coordination of clean-up activities and response to clandestine lab sites. The strategy also establishes a statewide protocol for first responders and emphasis will be placed on education and training in clandestine laboratory certification and site safety.
DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams have been developed 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 many arrests. In addition, DEA Regional Enforcement Teams have been designed to augment existing DEA pision 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.