Drug Trafficking Methods in the United States
In 2009, the United States Customs and Border Control seized over 1,626 tons of illegal drugs. “The United States Customs and Border Control (CPB), is one of the Department of Homeland Security’s largest and most complex components, with a priority mission of keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S. It also has a responsibility for securing and facilitating trade and travel while enforcing hundreds of U.S. regulations, including immigration and drug laws.” (CBP.gov) The CBP along with the United States Coast Guard seizes illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine entering into the United States in various ways. Some of these ways are through ground transport by motor vehicle, maritime transport by boats and semisubmersibles, and transport by using the human body. In this paper I will discuss several different methods in which illegal drugs are being trafficked into the United States.
In 2009, 1,588,703 kilograms of illegal drugs were seized in the United States while being transported by land either on the Mexican and Canadian boarders; marijuana held the highest amount brought into the country (National Drug Threat Assessment 2010). The use of motor vehicles, privet and commercial use, all-terrain vehicles, and carriers on foot traffic drugs across the border and throughout the United States.
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The United States Boarder Control have come across many different ways that drug cartels disguise and hide illegal drugs for ground transportation. Drugs have been discovered in in obvious places in motor vehicles such as in bags put into the trunk, but there have also been instances where drugs have been put into tires or hidden within parts of the motor vehicle. On July 26, 2009, U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized over 85 pounds on marijuana from a minivan that was in Arizona. The drug was concealed in the 1997 Ford Windstar’s door jam and fenders (CBP, July 2009).
A drug mule or courier is a person who transports illegal drugs by using their body. There are multiple ways that this type of trafficking occurs. The first is when the drug strapped to the person’s body and then hidden by clothing. A more dangerous way that drugs are being trafficked is by ingesting the drug into one’s body and is then retrieved later. This is done by swallowing balloons or condoms that contain the drug. The drug is then left alone to run its course through the digestive tract and later retrieved through the courier’s stool. The courier risks their medical health when doing this. If a packet is to burst before it can exit the body, the amount of the drug that enters onto the body can cause an overdose. A courier may insert the packets of drugs into their body directly through their anus or vagina.
There are multiple ways for illegal drugs to be brought into the country using the open seas. Some of these ways involved container ships, cruise ships, commercial fishing boats, recreation boats, and semisubmersibles. In 2009, the United States seized 24,737 kilograms of drugs while in transit using these methods.
Due to high security on the United States boarder, drug cartels are becoming more creative in the way that they are bringing their product into the country. Traveling at 6+ knots in a 40 to 80 foot vessel, traffickers are using semisubmersibles (SPSSs) to transport cocaine to the south-west coast line on the United States. These semisubmersibles run inches below the water’s surface unable to be detected visually and only by sonar. SPSSs are built in rivers under the cover of thick jungles then sailed into open water where they are capable of carrying up to 10 tons of cocaine that is trafficked into the United States. According to the Joint Interagency Task Force South, an average vessel cost $2 million USD and can carry a cargo worth $400 million USD when sold on the street.
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Due to the low pay that workers receive while being employed by cruise line companies, some workers find themselves resorting to other ways to receive an income. While in port in a South American country, workers will pick up their cargo of drugs and transport them to another port of call that the ship is making. While docked in America, the worker will deliver their cargo and make a transaction with the awaiting drug dealer. This type of drug trafficking is kept out of the American media but is still a large issue.
In December of 2010, three Jamaican cruise ship employees for Royal Caribbean’s 989-foot Enchantment of the Seas, where arrested in Baltimore, Maryland after they were caught with $4,000 USD worth of heroin and cocaine that was to be sold to two men at a local Walmart. The three men where indited on conspiracy to import heroin and cocaine. This is only one example of the many instances that cruise lines are faced with every day.
For many years recreation boats have been used to transport and traffic illegal drugs into the United States. Privately owned speed boats are commonly used to move a product from one location to another. Seafaring traffickers use speed boats because of their high speeds and natural appearance to blend among other recreational boats. In order to catch the boats while in transit, The United States Coast Guard use smaller boats of their own that can match the high speed on the water and they also use helicopters that are equipped with riffles that are able to shot into the boats engine to disengage it.
Grown in the countries of South America, with Columbia being the most productive, the Erythroxylon Coca bush is the natural origin of cocaine, a central nervous stimulant. Its history is as rich and diverse as the people using and dealing the drug. Cocaine use dates as far back as the 16th century when it was used among Inca royalty. In the early 1800’s cocaine was introduced to Europe. ...
Container ships and commercial fishing boats are widely used by drug traffickers to move their product in open water. Large containers are not widely searched when they are brought into the United States. The illegal drugs are normally mixed with or hidden inside crates or other various items like children’s toys or imported food such as fruits. The use of commercial fishing boats is also widely used. Drug cartels have mixed various packs of drugs with crates of fish that are later retrieved on the docks and in the fish markets. Illegal drugs have also been discovered in built-in compartments on the bottom of crates. In December of 2001, the United States Coast Guard discovered 10.5 tons of pure cocaine hidden in compartments under yellow tuna fish (Russell, 2002).
Over 1,626 tons of illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine where seized by the United States Customs and Border Control in 2009. (National Drug Threat Assessment of 2010) Drug cartels are trafficking their product in various ways by using motor vehicles, privet and commercial use, all-terrain vehicles, drug mules, container ships, cruise ships, commercial fishing boats, recreation boats, and semisubmersibles. By increasing security along the Mexican and Canadian borders and monitoring waterways, drug trafficking can be limited.
http://www.policyalmanac.org/crime/archive/drug_trafficking.shtml, retrieved March 21, 2011
http://www.justice.gov/ndic/pubs38/38661/heroin.htm#Heroin, retrieved March 21, 2011
Smugglers are using tuna boats to transport cocaine by Dick Russell, Defenders of Wildlife Summer 2002 edition, page 820
CBP Officers Seize Marijuana Hidden Under Van’s Fenders, July 30, 2009, http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/newsroom/news_releases/archives/2009_news_releases/july_2009/07302009_8.xml
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Joint Interagency Task Force South, June18, 2008, http://media.mcclatchydc.com/smedia/2008/07/18/17/Hall-SPSS-factsheet.source.prod_affiliate.91.pdf
Jamaican cruise ship employees charged with drug smuggling into US, Dec. 30, 2010, http://www.risingstarstv.net/profiles/blogs/jamaican-cruise-ship-employees
http://www.justice.gov/ndic/pubs38/38661/movement.htm, February 2010, U.S. Department of Justice, National Drug Intelligence Center National Drug Threat Assessment 2010