Tonight we go in-depth to look at the state of the drug war in Arizona and the on-going efforts by the drug enforcement agency locally. We’ll look at what drugs are coming and going in terms of popularity and availability, and why.
What does the drug landscape look like in Arizona right now?
We went to see Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Arizona, Doug Coleman, who says to understand what's happening, one of the key things you need to do is follow the money.
For instance, Coleman says, the Meth trade is ramping up, while cocaine is slowing down.
“As the coke market has become less prominent in [the] US., Americans still want their stimulant fix, so the stimulant that’s replacing that is meth, so what we’ve seen herein Arizona is a 20 percent increase in our meth seizures over the past year, because the Mexican Cartels will push that product over here to feed that stimulant need,” says Coleman.
Why the downturn in Cocaine? Coleman says it's because the Cartels south of the border can make more money sending it elsewhere.
“It’s all profit-related,” says Coleman. “The Columbians and Peruvians that manufacture the coke can make more money per kilo by sending across into Europe, because there's less transport fees as they go through Africa and into a European market as opposed to going through Mexico.”
Meth labs used to be busted weekly in Arizona, but 10 years ago a crackdown on pseudoephedrine needed to make Meth shifted the manufacturing to Mexico.
“So now the superlabs that used to operate in the US now operate in Mexico,” Coleman says. “The ones capable of making 100 to 200 pounds at a time.
The number one drug by far coming into Arizona says Coleman remains Marijuana.
“We seize thousands of pounds of meth, cocaine and heroin every year,” Colemans says. “We seize millions of pounds of marijuana.”
Once again it's about the money the cartels can score.
“Marijuana, although it’s relatively inexpensive and the profit margin isn’t as great per pound, it’s a volume business, so much is coming across [that] they’re making a lot of money off of that,” Coleman said.
One of the most alarming drugs out there right now is spice, according to Coleman.
“It is designed to do nothing but really mess you up,” Coleman says.
Coleman says much of the chemical powder used to make Spice is smuggled in from China.
“The raw material to make that that's shipped from overseas so if it can get through Customs, Customs seizes a lot of this stuff, but sometimes it gets through [and] a small amount can make a lot of spice.”
One of the most bizarre and violent crimes Phoenix has seen recently was allegedly carried out by a man named Kenneth Wakefield. He is accused of decapitating his wife in their home and killing their two dogs. During the violent crime, he also cut off his arm and gouged out his eye.
He apparently told police he had smoked spice.
“It’s very violent,” says Coleman. “It causes hallucinations, what we call excited delierium that people get so excited and so stimulated out [that] they do crazy things. They commit violent acts.”
Also alarming says Coleman, is the rise of heroin as a drug of choice among young people across Arizona and the country.
“The Mexican Cartels have noticed we have a rapidly rising opiate addicted population, so they are pumping across heroin to meet that demand.”
Coleman says young people who steal and use their parents prescription opiates are becoming a new generation of heroin addicts when their prescription pills run out.
“The pills are going for $70 on the street,” Coleman says. “They have to switch over to something cheaper to get that fix. Heroin can go for $20 to $30 a gram, so they’ve switched over to using heroin because they can’t get the pills.”
While the wave of drugs can appear overwhelming, Coleman says they are steady and unwavering in their fight against them.
“DEA and DEA in Arizona, we will never give up,” says Coleman. “We will continue to arrest everyone who peddles these poisons that we can find and we will continue to try and do everything we can to stop drug abuse.”
Every year the DEA prepares a comprehensive report called the National Drug Threat Assessment.
The one is out for 2015 and it is filled with information about the threat posed to the United States by trafficking and illicit drugs.
The report identifies the number one threat this year as heroin, followed by meth.
Visit this website
to learn more about these threats terrorizing our community.