The large area of Texas, vast array of highways, a long coastline, two international airports and a long border with Mexico has been ideal for the drug traffickers. Having a close border with Mexico has made Texas very vulnerable to drug trafficking. Numerous drug traffickers operate in the Texas panhandle. Drugs brought into the state are also distributed all over the nation. Despite the intense policing and security, drug trafficking remains a major problem for the state of Texas
Texas has been infiltrated with drug traffickers, mainly from the south of the border. In the past the drug trade was solely controlled by the Mexicans, but today the Columbians, Asians, Vietnamese and even the Chinese are fighting for their fair share of drug money. All types of illicit drugs are available and include methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine and heroin.
Despite the increase in law enforcement and surveillance techniques, drug smuggling is at an all-time high in Texas. The drug trade has also been associated with people smuggling across the border. The NAFTA treaty established more than a decade ago, has increased the daily cross border traffic and associated with it has been an increase in drug smuggling. Rural, desert like areas in New Mexico and West Texas have provided a great opportunity for drug smugglers. The majority of drug smuggling is done at the El Paso and Juarez Corridor. Seizures indicate that large amounts of all illicit drugs are confiscated on a daily basis.
Drug traffickers also obtain warehouses in El Paso to hide their drugs and money and recruit “mules” 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, aircrafts, campers and by rail. EL Paso is also considered a hub for significant amounts of drug proceeds being laundered through small businesses.
Cocaine is readily available throughout Texas. Texas serves as a major hub for transshipment of cocaine to other states such as Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi. The narcotics are either shipped directly to Texas or transshipped through Mexico. The drug traffickers favor the exploitation of the commercial trucking industry to smuggle large quantities of cocaine. Smaller loads are routinely seized from privately owned vehicles or from couriers. The El Paso and Juarez corridor serves as a transshipment point for cocaine to various locations in the U.S.
The majority of powder cocaine is converted to crack cocaine and sold on the street as such. The crack cocaine trade is very lucrative and this has been associated with numerous gangs who want to control the trade. Associated with the gangs have been violence, crime, thefts and prostitution. Recent seizures of crack cocaine reveal that the drug is widely available at school levels and all ethnic groups are involved in cocaine abuse. Local law enforcement authorities consistently rank cocaine and crack cocaine distribution and use as their number one drug problem.
The majority of heroin available in Texas is from Mexico. Texas remains a major transshipment hub for heroin transfer into the rest of America. Despite the low quality of heroin, recent seizures indicate that trafficking of this drug continues unabated. With the recent wave of Asian migration, the SE variety of heroin is now increasingly trafficked in Texas.
The heroin is typically smuggled in secret compartments in private vehicles and concealed on persons. The heroin is usually carried across the border by the illegal migrants. Most hospitals indicate that heroin related deaths and complications are on the increase in the inner cities.
Methamphetamine continues to be the most abused drug in Texas. The majority of methamphetamine is smuggled in from Mexico. The recent ban on the availability of precursor chemicals like ephedrine has all but shut down the clandestine laboratories. Despite the lack of proper chemicals, many drug traffickers use dangerous chemicals like ammonia, red phosphorus, lithium batteries and muriatic acid to manufacture methamphetamine. The locally made methamphetamine is not only dangerous to health but also is known to produce toxic chemicals and generate a fire hazard. The large rural area has allowed the drug traffickers to manufacture methamphetamine in very unsophisticated laboratories.
Methamphetamine also continues to be smuggled in from Florida, California and Arizona. The major route of smuggling is via automobiles, vans and trucks, all of which contain secret compartments to hide the drugs. The methamphetamine drug trade has also been associated with gangs and this has resulted in an increase in violence, turf wars, prostitution, inner city poverty and crime.
Marijuana is widely available throughout the state of Texas. The bulk of the marijuana is smuggled in from Mexico. The drug smugglers utilize private cars, vans, trucks and campers to bring the marijuana into the State. The bulk of the smuggled marijuana is brought in hidden compartments and once into the state, smaller packages are made and distributed across the state. Recently large amounts of marijuana have been smuggled into the state via secret tunnels which cross from Mexico into Texas. Because of the increased vigilance by law enforcement, home grown marijuana is only made for inpidual supplies and does not dominate the drug market.
Club drugs are easily available in most of Texas. MDMA remains the most abused drug. The drug is commonly abused by college students and recent seizures indicate that younger populations have become a new generation of users. The majority of club drugs are smuggled in from Mexico. The club drug scene is controlled by Asians and Hispanic traffickers. Almost every major city in Texas has been affected by the increased epidemic. Recent data indicates that a significant proportion of club drugs come in from Europe and are trafficked by Israelis and Russians.
Other dangerous club drugs readily available include Rohypnol, Ketamine, GHB, LSD, and PCP. Because of the close proximity to the Mexican borders, numerous clubs drugs are easily available from Mexican pharmacies, where prescriptions are not required.
The abuse of pharmaceutical drugs continues to rise at an exponential rate. The most commonly abused prescription drugs include oxycontin, hydrocodone and Xanax. These drugs are primarily obtained via prescription forgeries, “doctor shopping”, pharmacy break-ins and via the internet. Some of the pharmaceutical drugs are brought into Texas from Mexico and Southwestern Border cities. Numerous pain management clinics have opened in every major city in the State and pose an enormous threat to the communities. These pain management clinics do injustice to patients by continually prescribing narcotics to addicts.
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.
Associated with drug trafficking is money laundering. Cash intensive businesses, such as restaurants, bars and nightclubs, shipping industry, casinos and tourism have all at some time been exposed to “drug” money. Texas is a major financial center and with its numerous banks has often been used to transfer drug money back home. The drug proceeds have been difficult to trace but recent government laws have allowed for strict monitoring of all bank transactions. Currency seizures indicate most border banks play a major role in the transfer of currency across into Mexico. However recent laws do allow for currency seizures if the money is suspected to be from drug trafficking.
To counteract the drug problem DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams have been 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 developed 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.
Recently the Texas legislature passed a significant reform providing for drug treatment instead of incarceration for first-time drug offenders. This remarkable legislation is designed to reduce its highly over-populated prison system. Texas has long been in the national spotlight for obvious racial disparities and abuses in the criminal justice system. With one of the largest prison populations in the country, drug reforms for the non-violent felon are urgently needed.
Recent convictions of minorities for non-violent drug offenses have led the Texas legislature to pass reforms in response to the Tulia controversy, and the U.S. Justice Department has launched a federal civil rights investigation.