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Pennsylvania Factsheet   PDF  Print  Email 

State Facts

Population: 12,287,150
Law Enforcement Officers: 29,557
State Prison Population: 71,000
Probation Population: 125,928
Violent Crime Rate National Ranking: 23

Drug Situation: Heroin, powder cocaine, crack cocaine, and marijuana are the four most available, popular, and trafficked illegal drugs in Pennsylvania.

However, clandestinely manufactured drugs, such as methamphetamine, and club drugs, such as MDMA (ecstasy), are also readily available to users of various ages and socioeconomic backgrounds.

PCP and LSD are available primarily to users in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas and although OxyContin availability appears to be decreasing, other diverted pharmaceutical drugs remain available to users throughout Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania’s largest city, Philadelphia, sits on the Interstate 95 corridor, the east coast’s most frequently traveled highway that runs from Boston, through New York City and Washington, DC, to Miami. Philadelphia’s location and proximity to New York makes it not only a consumer market, but also a source city for distributors operating in the rest of Pennsylvania and in surrounding areas.

Illegal drugs are primarily distributed by Hispanic and African-American groups that are scattered throughout Pennsylvania. They distribute drugs that are either transported into the state via various transshipment points or are shipped/transported directly to Philadelphia or other localities using a variety of methods, including local importation and subsequent transportation to New York-based traffickers.

Parcel services are also commonly used to ship quantities of drugs to recipients in Pennsylvania.

While Philadelphia’s street corner distribution networks are generally considered the main sources of supply for drugs sold to users in Pennsylvania, intelligence indicates that local distribution networks are also directly supplied by trafficking organizations based in New York and other major domestic source areas.

Heroin trafficking and distribution are the DEA Philadelphia Division’s top enforcement priorities, especially as investigations reveal that trafficking organizations, in the search for new customer and higher profits, are relocating from inner city neighborhoods into some of the smaller cities and rural areas in Pennsylvania.

This trend remains a significant concern to state and local law enforcement, community, and treatment officials, who are worried about the increasing violence and number of overdose deaths that accompany the spread of heroin into their neighborhoods.

Officials from DEA Philadelphia and state and local law enforcement are concerned about the apparent increase and eastward movement of methamphetamine production into Pennsylvania, primarily due to the safety hazards associated with the production.

DEA and state law enforcement continue to discover and dismantle clandestine methamphetamine laboratories throughout the state, especially in rural northwestern Pennsylvania, which is becoming known to local officials as the “meth capital of Pennsylvania.”

2004 Federal Drug Seizures

Cocaine: 173.8 kgs.
Heroin: 14.3 kgs.
Methamphetamine: 4.1 kgs.
Marijuana: 1,178.4 kgs.
Ecstasy: 20,373 tablets
Methamphetamine Laboratories: 63 (DEA, state, and local)

Cocaine: Cocaine, in powder and crack forms, remains widely available and popular in Pennsylvania. Both forms are available in various quantities to users located both in the inner city neighborhoods of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh as well as in smaller cities and towns across the state.

Quantities of powder cocaine are also available to local distributors who convert or “cook” the powder cocaine into crack cocaine.

Due to its wide availability and relative ease of use (smoking), the popularity and use of crack cocaine is unsurpassed in most of Pennsylvania, while only the popularity of heroin is comparable in Philadelphia.

Cocaine use continues to infiltrate a variety of populations both within inner city neighborhoods of the larger metropolitan areas and in smaller urban and rural localities throughout Pennsylvania, regardless of economic status or ethnic background.

New York City remains the primary source area for cocaine distributed in Pennsylvania.

Some distributors continue to travel to Philadelphia to purchase cocaine and crack cocaine, while other distributors from eastern Pennsylvania travel to New York to purchase large quantities of powder cocaine for distribution to local users or to “cook” and sell as crack cocaine.

Heroin: Heroin remains widely available in Pennsylvania, as distributors continue to relocate from source cities to the state’s smaller towns and rural areas to attract new customers.

Although the greater Philadelphia area is generally considered a consumer heroin market, North Philadelphia’s street corner distribution sites also attract distributors from locales throughout Pennsylvania.

The relocation of trafficking and distribution organizations over the last few years resulted in the increasing availability of heroin in locations once thought to be exempt from the problems associated with heroin distribution and use.

For example, investigations reveal that cheap, high-purity heroin is now readily available in the northeastern and southwestern parts of Pennsylvania, areas where cocaine distribution dominated for years.

Heroin availability was relatively stable in the rest of Pennsylvania, as it remains easy for users to obtain heroin it most cities and towns in the state.

Some of these cities and towns, especially Allentown, Bethlehem, Reading, and Easton have become lower-level distribution points for users and distributors operating in surrounding communities.

These cities are not only located within a short drive of Philadelphia and other localities in eastern Pennsylvania, but are also located within a short drive of New York City - the prime source city for heroin consumed in Pennsylvania.

The increasing availability of cheaper, higher purity heroin over the last few years has caused concern throughout Pennsylvania over a growing heroin use problem that reaches all areas and all socioeconomic backgrounds.

Heroin’s popularity among teens and young adults remains high, as they and other users consume heroin either by itself or in combination with cocaine or alcohol - a combination that typically leads to overdose deaths.

In Pennsylvania, the perception of heroin remaining a problem only in the inner cities is disappearing, as demonstrated by rising counts of heroin-related deaths in areas far from the inner cities.

Methamphetamine Lab Seizures: 2000=8, 2001=17, 2002=29, 2003=60, 2004=63

Methamphetamine: Methamphetamine is available in varying quantities in Pennsylvania with consumption concentrated in the Philadelphia area.

The majority of the methamphetamine used in Pennsylvania is supplied by local traffickers who manufacture or produce it themselves and by major trafficking organizations operating in California and Mexico.

Intelligence indicates that these organizations transport methamphetamine into Pennsylvania using a variety of methods, including private vehicles, commercial bus luggage, and packages shipped via express mail and parcel services.

Although the availability of methamphetamine in Pennsylvania is relatively low compared to the midwestern and western United States, investigations and reports from state and local law enforcement confirm the eastward movement of methamphetamine production into Pennsylvania.

In particular, rural areas, such as the northwestern counties and Pocono Mountain have been infiltrated with small, yet dangerous, methamphetamine laboratories, as numerous seizures have documented by law enforcement in the last few years.

The rural parts of Pennsylvania remained the most popular sites for clandestine laboratories due to the reduced risk of detection caused by the pungent odor of a laboratory as well as the likelihood of a lesser law enforcement presence.

However, investigations continued to reveal that small-scale laboratories exist anywhere from residences to motel rooms in cities and towns throughout Pennsylvania.

These laboratories account for the vast majority of methamphetamine laboratories seized in Pennsylvania and the majority of methamphetamine available in western Pennsylvania.

However, the production output of these laboratories represent only a small percentage of the methamphetamine consumed in all of Pennsylvania.

Though not nearly as popular as heroin, cocaine, or crack cocaine, methamphetamine is attractive because of its longer lasting high and because users can easily produce their own methamphetamine with readily available recipes, precursor chemicals or ingredients, and equipment.

Laboratory operators use various means to obtain precursor chemicals, including diversion from legitimate sources and self-production. However, precursor chemicals include commonly used household products/chemicals, such as lye, and over the counter drugs, such as pseudoephedrine, most of which are readily available at retail stores.

Club Drugs: MDMA (ecstasy) is primarily available at rave parties and nightclubs in the metropolitan areas of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia and Pittsburgh), but remains available to and popular among teenagers and young adults on college campuses across the state.

Gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), the GHB precursor gamma butyrolactone (GBL), and ketamine are also available in Philadelphia-area nightclubs, while GHB was available and used in central Pennsylvania.

New York City is the primary source area for the retail quantities of MDMA available in Pennsylvania.

Investigations indicate that MDMA is smuggled by Israeli and Dutch nationals as well as by members of Russian and Israeli organized crime groups from the Netherlands, through Canada, New York, and the Caribbean, and then to cities in Pennsylvania.

Wholesale quantities of MDMA tablets are also shipped and transported directly into Pennsylvania via mail/parcel services or by couriers flying into major international airports. Philadelphia International Airport is one of these locations, where couriers travel with suitcases or wearing clothing that conceals tablets.

Marijuana: Marijuana is readily available in varying quantities in Pennsylvania.

It is easily obtained and used by individuals from a variety of ethnic populations and socioeconomic sectors.

Recreational use of marijuana is popular among high school and college age students, while adults remain the predominant users of marijuana, especially in large social gatherings, such as rock concerts.

Reports indicate that marijuana is typically smoked in combination with crack cocaine, heroin, and PCP.

The primary source area of marijuana distribution in Pennsylvania is the US southwest border region, including Texas, Arizona, California and Mexico.

Various means of transport are typically employed by traffickers transporting large quantities of marijuana into the state, including concealing it among loads in tractor-trailers, private vehicles, passenger luggage on commercial aircrafts, buses, and trains; the US Postal Service; and parcel shipping companies (e.g. UPS, Fedex).

Smaller amounts of marijuana are “home-grown,” especially in the northwestern counties of Pennsylvania, while recent reports of indoor and outdoor marijuana grow seizures indicate that smaller growing operations exist elsewhere in Pennsylvania.

Due to their proximity to major interstates, various cities and towns in Pennsylvania are considered transshipment points as well as consumer markets. In particular, the Harrisburg area, which is home to several trucking and parcel shipping hubs, remains an intermediary point for marijuana trafficking organizations transporting bulk loads of marijuana throughout the eastern United States.

Other Dangerous Drugs: In the Philadelphia area, phencyclidine (PCP) is available and commonly used with marijuana.

Reports continue to indicate that lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) remains available in western Pennsylvania and in smaller urban areas north and west of Philadelphia. Caucasian juveniles and young adults who reside in these smaller urban areas and area colleges are reportedly the predominant users and distributors of LSD.

California is the most commonly reported source area for quantities of LSD, while California and New York are considered the source areas for the PCP that is primarily distributed in Philadelphia.

Typically, these drugs are transported in vehicles or shipped in parcels via the US Postal Service or other parcel services.

Diverted Pharmaceutical Drugs: A variety of diverted pharmaceutical drugs are available to users in Pennsylvania.

Oxycodone products remained among the most frequently diverted and used pharmaceutical drugs in the state. According to reports, OxyContin is more expensive and more difficult to obtain in Pennsylvania and as a result, users are switching to heroin.

Other oxycodone products, however, such as Percodan, Percocet, Tylox, and Roxicet remain particularly popular in Philadelphia, but are also used throughout the rest of the state.

Fentanyl patches continue to be distributed and worn by users while methadone remained popular and available in Philadelphia.

Tablet forms of hydrocodone products, such as Vicodin, Lortab, and Lorcet, and cough syrups, such as Tussionex and Hycodan, remain popular in Pennsylvania.

Xanax remains one of the pharmaceutical drugs of choice in Pennsylvania while Promethazine cough syrup remains available and popular with users in Philadelphia.

The DEA Philadelphia Division recently learned of a new prescription drug that is available on the streets. Known as Actiq, this drug contains fentanyl and is intended for use only to treat and manage severe cancer pain. An Actiq unit consists of a medicated, raspberry-flavored lozenge on a handle and is known on the street as a “Percopop,” likely due to their resemblance to lollipops.

The most common methods of diverting pharmaceutical drugs are theft, fraud, direct wholesale purchases, physicians/health care professionals prescribing controlled substances for people with no legitimate medical need, prescription forgery, and “doctor shopping” schemes.

In addition, large-scale diversion from independent and chain retail pharmacies remains a problem throughout Pennsylvania.

Illegitimate internet pharmacies are examples of the relatively new phenomenon of employing the internet to facilitate and cover up criminal activity and are targets of investigations in Pennsylvania.

Drug-violation Arrests: 2000=1004, 2001=805, 2002=597, 2003=625, 2004=775

DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams: This cooperative program with state and local law enforcement counterparts was conceived in 1995 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, a total of 436 deployments have been completed nationwide, resulting in 18,318 arrests.

There have been 16 MET deployments in the State of Pennsylvania since the inception of the program: Bristol, Chester City, Clariton, Easton, Norristown, Reading, Allentown, York, Pottstown, Chester, Bethlehem, Allentown, Philadelphia (2), Upper Darby, and Harrisburg.

DEA Regional Enforcement Teams: This program was designed to augment existing DEA division 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.

As of January 31, 2005, there have been 27 deployments nationwide, and one deployment in the U.S. Virgin Islands, resulting in 671 arrests.

There has been one RET deployment in the State of Pennsylvania since the inception of the program, in Pittsburgh.

Financial/Money Laundering: The money raised from drug sales is transported to source areas from Pennsylvania using any or a combination of several common methods.

These methods typically fall under one of two categories: physical transportation or electronic transfer.

Methods of physical transportation include direct shipment of cash via parcel or mail services and transportation by vehicle employing a variety of concealment measures.

Technology developed and advanced in the last several years made the electronic transfer of funds a much more attractive and much less risky method to pay sources of supply around the world.

While wire remittance companies are regularly used to transfer money, the use of internet banking to transfer funds into domestic and international bank accounts has become increasingly popular.

Money laundering methods include purchasing valuables, vehicles, real estate, and other property with drug proceeds.

The creation and use of fictitious front companies and illegitimate businesses including internet-based companies have been popular.

The “structuring” of electronic transfers over several days, using several different financial institutions is another way to avoid transaction reporting.




 
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