Illinois has always been a hub for drug traffickers. Chicago is ideally located for receiving and shipping drugs along the entire Midwest and North east. The multifaceted transportation communications, the busiest airport in the nation and a multitude of interstates cross the state, has made Illinois is a favorite among drug organizations. Besides the rail system, transfer of drugs along the interstates remains a common method of drug transfer.
Drug trafficking is chiefly done by the Mexican Cartels but other organizations include the Columbians, Nigerians, Jamaicans and the Asians also play an important role. In addition, gangs with their own territory are located all over the state and play a significant role in the drug trade. Besides drug trafficking, these gangs are involved in major crimes, including homicides, prostitution, money laundering and social upheaval in the communities.
Cocaine is supplied in large quantities by the Mexicans on a regular basis. The majority of cocaine is smuggled in via the interstates in trucks. Once in Chicago, the cocaine is rapidly packaged in smaller parcels and then districted throughout the state and as far as New York City and Philadelphia.
Heroin from Mexico, SE Asia and South America is widely available in the state. Once the domain of the Mexican cartels, today, the Nigerians and Jamaicans also play a pivotal role in the distribution of heroin in Illinois. Columbian drug lords have recently established strongholds in parts of Chicago and play a major role in the smuggling of heroin into the State. The wide availability of heroin has led to a decrease in heroin prices. However, together with the lower prices has been a decrease n the quality and potency of heroin.
Methamphetamine is smuggled in to the state via the Mexicans. This drug is also locally made in clandestine laboratories. The Mexican drug cartels smuggle in large quantities into Illinois from Texas, California and Mexico. Once in the major cities, the distribution is controlled by violent gangs who are very territorial.
The state has also seen an explosion of methamphetamine laboratories. The drug is made in many rural areas with chemicals obtained from pharmacies, agriculture stores and from the chemical industry. Despite a government ban on the sale of ephedrine from cough products, the proliferation of meth laboratories is at an all-time high.
Being a major cosmopolitan and an international trade destination, Chicago has become a major source for club drug usage. All types of club drugs are readily available in Chicago including:
Chicago is also the leading distributor of club drugs across the Midwest. Locally, Chicago serves as a primary source area for club drugs distributed throughout the colleges and schools.
Associated with drug trafficking is money laundering. Chicago’s status as a major financial capital has also made it a major source of illegal laundering of these finances. Money laundering has been exploited in various businesses such as night clubs, bars, restaurants, real estate and automobiles. Large sums of money are also transported back to Mexico hidden in various compartments in trucks and automobiles.
The state Government now regularly monitors all money transections, wire transfers, ATM deposits and have the authority to freeze bank accounts of suspicious inpiduals.
Marijuana is the most widely available and used illicit drug in Illinois. The marijuana control is with the Mexico-based poly-drug trafficking organizations that transport and ship the drug into and out of the State. Marijuana is principally smuggled in trucks with legitimate goods on board. Mexican trafficking cells operating in the Chicago area are often composed of extended family members of associates who make up small gangs in the communities. In addition, local marijuana is being increasingly cultivated in both outdoor and indoor sites.
The persion of legitimate pharmaceuticals is a significant problem in Illinois. Prescription drugs such as hydrocodone, Vicodin, oxycodone and products such as OxyContin, and pseudoephedrine continue to be a problem in Illinois. Primary methods of persion being reported are illegal sale and distribution by physicians, pharmacists, “doctor shopping” and via the internet. Benzodiazepines, methylphenidate, and methadone continue to be among the most commonly abused drugs in Illinois.
To counter the drug problem, DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams were established in response to the overwhelming problem of drug-related violent crime in towns and cities across the nation. 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.
To speed up drug related crimes, there are currently 15 drug courts in existence in Illinois. Despite being a leading advocate for medical marijuana use for the past 30 years, legislation has still not been approved by the courts. Several of the state's top newspapers have endorsed medical marijuana.
The majority of drug offenders in prison in Illinois are African-Americans. This number highlights the problem of Illinois’ drug enforcement strategy as the state leads the nation in racially disproportionate incarceration of African-American and Hispanic drug offenders. In 2000, numerous children of color were transferred to adult court for drug crimes. The Illinois government has done little to stop the race-based incarceration of thousands of minority drug offenders.
The 2000 court case, Chavez v. Illinois State Police, demonstrated that Hispanic (even though they comprise only 8% of population) motorists were frequently targeted (30% of total) by police – using the “Valkyrie” drug interdiction force for discretionary driving offenses. The same lawsuit revealed that African-Americans were also targeted more than any race for trivial offenses by the “Valkyrie” unit. Recently legislation was introduced mandating racial sensitivity training for officers and data collection during traffic stops.
Another major problem for the Illinois drug users has been the spread of HIV/AIDS. Since 1981, Illinois has ranked seventh in the nation in HIV infection. Recently a new bill was passed that allowed pharmacies to sell syringes without a prescription.