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South Carolina Factsheet   PDF  Print  Email 

State Facts

Population: 4,063,011
Law Enforcement Officers: 9,510
State Prison Population: 32,800
Probation Population: 44,399
Violent Crime Rate National Ranking: 1

Drug Situation: South Carolina is identified more as a drug "consumer state" rather than a "source state."

However, there has been increasing evidence of organizational activity extending to major distribution hubs, such as New York City (cocaine and heroin), southern Florida (cocaine and Ecstasy (MDMA), southern Texas/Mexico (marijuana, methamphetamine, and diverted/illicit drugs), and southern California (methamphetamine, marijuana, and cocaine).

Investigations are becoming more complex and cross numerous statewide and nationwide jurisdictions.

Additionally, Mexican-based traffickers have taken advantage of the increase in Latino immigration to the state by hiding within Hispanic enclaves.

Based on the last census, Hispanics are the fastest growing racial group in South Carolina.

Recent investigations have targeted Hispanic, Cuban, Haitian, and Jamaican traffickers.

An examination of investigations conducted by the Charleston RO reveals that a significant portion of the cocaine and marijuana, distributed by coastal South Carolina distribution organizations, had originated from smuggling into the Port of Charleston.

It is a well-known fact that traffickers will utilize 20-foot and 40-foot shipping containers to transport contraband either by secreting within the structure of the container itself or commingling with legitimate commercial cargo.

Conservatively, for every container, loaded with illegal drugs discovered at the Port of Charleston, it is estimated that at least nine other containers with illegal drugs have slipped through without detection.

The Port of Charleston is the second largest containerized seaport on the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and handles over 1.5 million containers per year.

Currently there are three terminals; however, a fourth may be opened in the near future.

Despite this intimidating volume of containers, the Department of Homeland Security – Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has only a reported 10 inspectors to service the inspection requirements of Charleston’s three port facilities and they must rely on Confidential Source information and container profiling to maximize their chances of success.

These CBP Inspectors are only able to actually inspect less than 1 percent of all the containers destined to, or passing through, Charleston.

Recent investigations have shown that there are numerous "cells" of traffickers working at the port with or as longshoremen to bring cocaine, marijuana, and heroin into the United States from overseas (Panama, Colombia, etc.).

2004 Federal Drug Seizures

Cocaine: 313.1 kgs.
Heroin: 3.1 kgs.
Methamphetamine: 4.2 kgs.
Marijuana: 132.0 kgs.
Ecstasy: 33 tablets
Methamphetamine Laboratories: 116 (DEA, state, and local)

Cocaine: Cocaine trafficking has been detected at stable to moderately increased levels in the major metropolitan areas of the state, including Columbia, Greenville, and Florence.

An increase in trafficking along the coast has been noted in recent years, particularly in the tourist areas of Myrtle Beach and Charleston.

Sources of supply are located in South Florida, New York, Georgia, and California, with the most common method of importation being by motor vehicle.

Other less common methods of transport of drugs into the state include courier services, commercial airline, bus, and train travel.

At the retail level, trafficking groups appear to be moderately sized and loosely organized.

Cocaine is often transported into the state in powder form and converted into crack cocaine by local distributors.

During 2003 and 2004, DEA offices statewide placed significant attention on the development of cases targeting high level trafficking groups.

Title III investigations during 2003, resulted in the dismantling of a large cocaine trafficking organization operating in Columbia, SC. A total of 17 arrests were made in connection with the investigation.

Heroin: Heroin is available in multi-gram quantities throughout South Carolina and is routinely packaged in "bindles" for distribution.

The most common source location for heroin distributed in South Carolina is New York City.

Heroin suppliers use a variety of methods, including mail service and public transportation to transport heroin into South Carolina.

Although the heroin user population has historically been a limited and stable group generally located in the inner cities, recent information indicates an increasing pattern of heroin use by a younger population in "experimental" or "party" situations.

Methamphetamine Labs Seized: 2000=4, 2001=9, 2002=36, 2003=42, 2004=116

Methamphetamine: While methamphetamine is available across South Carolina, investigations indicate that there is a growing abuse of the drug.

Methamphetamine distributed in the state is normally obtained from sources of supply in California, and in some cases, from northern Georgia (Atlanta).

The number of clandestine laboratory seizures in South Carolina continues to increase.

Club Drugs: Ecstasy (MDMA) is readily available in several cities in South Carolina, predominantly in the areas of Greenville and Columbia, and those cities along the Atlantic coast.

During the past year, there has been a significant increase in Ecstasy distribution throughout the state, with traffickers based out of Columbia distributing a significant portion of the Ecstasy sold.

Recent data indicates that Atlanta, Georgia, has become a significant hub for MDMA distribution in South Carolina.

Law enforcement agencies are attempting to infiltrate organizations distributing Ecstasy, but are hampered by the cost of Ecstasy currently available on the street.

Marijuana: Marijuana, the most prevalent illegal drug of abuse in South Carolina, primarily comes from Mexico.

Traffickers use vehicles, tractor-trailers, commercial air, buses, trains, and commercial express parcel services to import marijuana from Mexico through California.

Members of the South Carolina National Guard and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) routinely eradicate small patches of outdoor marijuana.

In 2002, SLED discovered and destroyed 27,013 plants in South Carolina. In 2003, a total of 15,038 plants were destroyed.

Other Drugs: There have been increasing incidents of LSD distribution and abuse, as well as incidents of Rohypnol and Ketamine appearing in nightclubs in those communities along the Atlantic coast and upstate.

Drug-Violation Arrests: 2000=436, 2001=472, 2002=307, 2003=260, 2004=261

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 six MET deployments in the State of South Carolina since the inception of the program: Greenville, Dillon, North Charleston, Orangeburg, and Spartanburg (2).

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 have been no RET deployments in South Carolina.

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