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Atlanta HIDTA

General Information:
  Year of Designation:  1995
  Geographic Area of Responsibility:
    Georgia:

City of Atlanta, Fulton and DeKalb Counties, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport

    Contact: (404) 815-4400

Mission Statement:

The mission of the Atlanta HIDTA Program is to measurably enhance public safety in strategically designated high crime areas of metropolitan Atlanta (City of Atlanta, Fulton/DeKalb Counties). This mission is to be accomplished principally, by two intelligence driven investigative Drug Task Forces, which are focused on reducing and dismantling a number of categorical international, national, and regional Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) and Violent Career Criminals operating within or otherwise affecting Atlanta HIDTA areas of responsibility and other HIDTA zones throughout the US. Financial and technical investigative functions, as well as administrative and intelligence support which enhance targeting coordination of drug trafficking control efforts and interagency cooperation and coordination are essential aspects of this domestic law enforcement mission which is designed to alleviate the harmful consequences of drug trafficking, drug abuse and armed violence.

Threat Abstract:

The long standing roles of metropolitan Atlanta as a significant wholesale, retail, and transportation hub for drug trafficking, as well as a major financial center, are factors in the movement of controlled substances into and through the region. Atlanta also serves as a key distribution center for drugs transported into the U.S. from source areas.

Significant increases in the region's Hispanic population, driven primarily by employment opportunities in the construction and service industries, have afforded anonymity to Mexican and Southwestern U.S. based criminal organizations involved in drug transportation and distribution. These criminal organizations are the principle transporters of cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine into the Atlanta region.

The distribution and abuse of cocaine are the most significant drug threats to the metropolitan Atlanta area. Atlanta is a major cocaine transportation and distribution hub for the southeastern United States. Mexico-based DTOs are primarily responsible for transporting cocaine to the area. The primary sources for cocaine are California, Texas, and Mexico. A significant portion of the powdered cocaine transported into the Atlanta metropolitan area is converted to crack cocaine. Violence and social decay associated with the distribution and abuse of crack cocaine plague some sections of the Atlanta metropolitan area. Low-level criminal groups that operate in specific neighborhoods are primarily responsible for cocaine, crack, and other drug-related violence affecting the metropolitan Atlanta region.

Atlanta HIDTA Crystal Methamphetamine or “Ice” seizures increased almost 1,300% between CY 2002 and CY 2003.

Law enforcement reporting reflects that methamphetamine has emerged as the primary threat in suburban communities neighboring Fulton and DeKalb counties and quantities, in both powdered and crystal or “ice” forms, is readily available. The National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) National Drug Threat Survey 2004 (NDTS 2004) shows that 68.3% of participating law enforcement agencies identified methamphetamine as posing the greatest threat to their area of responsibility. Methamphetamine is an increasing threat in the suburban areas due to the drug's price and ready availability and is replacing some traditional drugs as a less expensive, more potent alternative. Although methamphetamine is transported primarily into the Atlanta area from Mexico and California, there also is significant methamphetamine production throughout Georgia in small clandestine laboratories.

Distribution and abuse of methamphetamine are expanding to all areas of the state. No longer considered ‘the poor man's cocaine,' methamphetamine abuse crosses most socioeconomic lines in urban, suburban, and rural areas in Georgia. Many of the counties immediately surrounding Atlanta report that methamphetamine, including its production in clandestine laboratories, is a significant law enforcement and community threat. Multi-pound seizures by law enforcement are becoming common. The NDTS 2004 (Atlanta HIDTA) reports 50% of methamphetamine cases to be closely associated with violent crimes in their respective areas.

Marijuana is the most readily available and widely abused illicit drug in the Atlanta metropolitan area; however, the drug is considered a lower threat than cocaine because it is less often associated with violent crime. According to the National Drug Threat Assessment, Atlanta is likely to emerge as a primary market for marijuana distribution. Most of the marijuana available in the state is produced in Mexico, although marijuana produced in Georgia and surrounding states is also available. Increasingly, traffickers smuggle multi- hundred pound quantities of marijuana typically using commercial tractor-trailers.

Quantities of heroin are easily obtainable and are trafficked, principally, in inner city Atlanta neighborhoods. Specifically engulfed by a high volume of heroin distribution is the English Avenue Community. According to the Atlanta Police Department, Atlanta is the secondary supply hub for heroin distribution outlets located in Columbus and Savannah as well as to other locations in the southeastern United States. Heroin is transported primarily from Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Texas to the metro Atlanta area.

Atlanta has traditionally supported a thriving club drug trade that is fueled by readily available supplies of MDMA, GHB, LSD, and Rohypnol. Much of the popularity of these drugs is related to the mistaken perception that they have few, if any, negative consequences. Typically, profit margins are very high and the penalties for MDMA and GHB distribution are much less severe than penalties for distribution of other dangerous drugs. The popularity of hallucinogens is particularly high in suburban areas, although many abusers travel into the city to purchase their drugs. Pharmaceuticals are diverted and abused in the Atlanta metropolitan area. PCP (phencyclidine) and psilocybin are also available and abused in the metro Atlanta area.

Strategy Abstract:

Previously defined drug and armed violence threats confronting HIDTA Task Forces in Atlanta, Fulton and DeKalb counties, are not simply redressed by increasing arrests, or effecting larger drug or cash seizures from disparate trafficking cells and “not-so organized” violator groups and individuals. Neither is the availability or actual use of illicit substances appreciably diminished through large seizures or a growing volume of non-strategic arrests. While drug and asset removals from these clandestine activities are important evidentiary elements in the arrest and prosecution process, singular focus on these criminal commodities as an evaluation impact measure, is indeed one dimensional and, in terms of measuring overall drug crime suppression, somewhat meaningless.

Strategic targeting and sustained disruption and dismantlement of organized retail, wholesale, and criminal groups, related distribution organizations (wholesalers), transportation networks, clan lab operators, co-conspirator smugglers, sources of supply, and supporting criminal financial services are the heart HIDTA's drug enforcement program. Suppressing the volume of organized drug trafficking organizations, locally, regionally, nationally, and globally, under a systematic, intelligence-driven strategy is the desirable “end game” for law enforcement and prosecutive agencies (Federal, state, and local) participating in the Atlanta HIDTA Program.

CORE INITIATIVES
The Atlanta HIDTA's operational role in this strategic process is two fold – one, a traditional, but strategic geographical investigative focus on a number of identified categorical drug trafficking organizations; and second, a public safety role in incarcerating an identified number of violent career criminals operating in HIDTA zones. OCDETF/CPOT: The Atlanta HIDTA's two investigative task force components and intelligence center are operationally engaged with DOJ's OCDETF Program and with CPOT targeting mechanisms dedicated to disrupt and dismantle entire organizational infrastructure of major international, national, and regional trafficking organizations. Those drug threats affecting both the Atlanta region and other HIDTA areas of the US are the focus of the HIDTA Program. Atlanta HIDTA intelligence and enforcement strategy share a collateral support commitment to participating HIDTA law enforcement agencies in their respective drug investigative activities.

SUPPORT INITIATIVES
Equal in importance to HIDTA's operational role is the institutional assistance and enhancements provided by the HIDTA Program to Federal, state, and local LEAs and prosecutor's offices participating in the HIDTA Program. As HIDTA's two Task Forces investigatively target DTOs and apply enforcement actions in specific high crime areas, and to the Metro Atlanta Region, HIDTA provides collective support to law enforcement agencies operating in Fulton and DeKalb Counties through the HIDTA Drug Intelligence Fusion Component, where criminal organizational “dots are connected” for follow-up investigation, and where refined strategic targeting and information sharing is designed to occur. Leads affecting HIDTA initiated cases are developed, leads for participating HIDTA law enforcement agencies, and other HIDTAs are produced, and disseminated.

Investigative Support Center:

The Investigative Support Center (ISC) is home to the Metro Atlanta HIDTA Task Force, a Technical Equipment Facility, an Automated Wiretap Center, a Training Facility, and the Metropolitan Atlanta Joint Intelligence Group (MAJIG). The functionality and usage of all of these component services have greatly facilitated and enhanced our core initiatives and support functions in our reported strategy.

Participating Agencies:

Federal: U.S. Attorneys Office – Northern District of GA, ATF, ICE, FBI, DEA, IRS- CI.
State/Local: Atlanta Police Department, DeKalb County District Attorney's Office, DeKalb County Police Department, Fulton County District Attorney's Office, Fulton County Police Department, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia National Guard, State of Georgia Attorney General's Office, Georgia State Patrol, MARTA Police Department.

Significant Achievements:

Intelligence: In the Spring of 2003, Atlanta HIDTA's Drug Intelligence Fusion Component developed a new sub-initiative – the Statewide Analytical Interdiction Narcotics Team (SAINT). This program, developed through HIDTA participating law enforcement partnerships with the Georgia State Patrol, ICE, and other HIDTA agencies, was developed to address the shipment of controlled substances and contraband cases over interstate highways in Georgia. Specifically, this intelligence support project, was intended to place a coordinated multi-agency intelligence support mechanism for drug interdiction responders and investigative units in Metro Atlanta and other areas of Georgia. During the development of Atlanta HIDTA's SAINT program, this project was “married” to and coordinated with the existing HIDTA interdiction program operation by the Gulf Coast HIDTA and to other HIDTA border interdiction components – all linked to the El Paso Intelligence Center. Since its inception in March 2003, SAINT has collected information on 432 violators, 317 incidents, produced 59 Intelligence Bulletins, 84 Letters of Dissemination, and made over 110 contacts throughout the State of Georgia and the United States.

Task Force: In late 2001, agents initiated a case targeting a violent DTO operating in the Jonesboro South area of Atlanta, Georgia. Agents utilized several cooperating defendants and informants to infiltrate the group. The informants and undercover officers were able to make several purchases (buys/walks) from several members of the organization, including direct purchase of crack cocaine from the head of the organization by an undercover police officer. In March 2003, agents conducted a search warrant on an apartment controlled by members of the gang. The head of the organization and five of his associates were arrested inside the apartment. Agents seized approximately half a kilogram of crack cocaine, approximately one kilogram of powder cocaine, six pounds of marijuana, one gun, approximately $17,000 in cash, and personal jewelry worth over $250,000.00. Total, agents arrested eleven members of the group for narcotics violations. Eight of the defendants were federally indicted for conspiracy to distribute cocaine, and all had subsequently pled guilty. Three of them are serving long federal sentences. The head of the organization and four of his associates are currently awaiting sentencing in Federal Court.

In March 2004, the seizure of 15 kilograms of heroin and the arrests of five individuals were the result of an ongoing investigation into an international cocaine and heroin smuggling DTO. This investigation is ongoing.

The Atlanta and DeKalb HIDTA Task Forces disrupted 27 and dismantled 17 DTOs during CY 2003.

CY 2003 Arrests & Seizures: 395 Arrests; 7.56K Crack Cocaine; 186.69K Cocaine HCL; 44.12K Heroin; 1,741.17K Marijuana; 210 Marijuana Plants; 11.32K Methamphetamine; 8.51K Crystal Methamphetamine; 3 Meth Labs; 90.69K Khat; 21.09K MDMA; 21.46K Opium; $1,198,271 U.S. Currency; 46 Vehicles; 81 Firearms; 1 home; 10 scales; $257,000 in Jewelry.

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Last Updated: January 31, 2004