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Northern California HIDTA

General Information:
  Year of Designation:  1997
  Geographic Area of Responsibility:

Alameda, Contra Costa, Lake, Marin, Monterey, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma counties.

    Contact: (415) 436-8530

Mission Statement:

The mission of the Northern California HIDTA (NC HIDTA), in support of the National Drug Control Policy, is to measurably reduce the impact of regional drug production, trafficking and distribution of illicit drugs and drug-related violence in ten San Francisco Bay Area counties. This mission is focused through initiatives specializing in intelligence, investigation, interdiction, prosecution and demand reduction. When appropriate, the Executive Board may direct responses to other threats in support of the National Drug Control Policy.

Threat Abstract:

The ten counties composing the San Francisco Bay region continue to be primary manufacturing, trans-shipment, distribution, and consumption areas for illegal drugs. This can be attributed to a number of economic, demographic, and geographic factors, including a large population base (approximately 7 million people), major national and international transportation centers, and economic disparity. The region is a center for international banking and finance, and hosts large national and international businesses. The NC HIDTA region includes three major cities, over 100 smaller cities and eight Indian reservations. San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose each have international airports and other major transportation facilities. The NC HIDTA region has 300 miles of coastal shoreline and includes three international ports and numerous private harbors. The Port of Oakland's cargo volume makes it the fourth busiest container port in the United States. Almost 60% of the Port's trade is with Asia. Interstate freeways bring millions of cars and trucks transiting from Mexico, Canada, and other states. Law enforcement is provided to the area by over 100 local and State law enforcement agencies and 15 Federal agencies.

Specific aspects of the threat in this region include:

Methamphetamine has been growing in popularity across the nation in recent years. California has been identified as the source region for the highest volume of domestically produced methamphetamine. From here, finished product is moved across the nation. Statewide, between January and early September 2004, California agencies seized 37 high-capacity (ten pounds or higher capacity) clandestine laboratories (“clan labs”). Oregon, with the seizure of five, follows California in the number of high capacity clan labs seized. While California's over-all clan lab seizures decreased from 2002 to 2003, the decrease is attributed to the reduced number of small clan labs operating, while the number of large-capacity clan labs remained stable. The consensus among the region's narcotic investigators is that more methamphetamine is coming directly from Mexico, some of which has been converted into the crystal form in Mexico.

Intelligence sources report “crystal” appears to have become more popular than powder methamphetamine throughout the NC HIDTA region.

The NC HIDTA region is home to individuals who are connected to methamphetamine production in our area and the California Central Valley. Mexican National Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) serve as the primary manufacturing and distribution groups.

Although methamphetamine can be consumed in a variety of ways, smoking is the most common method of ingestion in this region for both crystal (ice) and powder methamphetamine. The primary sources for both forms of methamphetamine are Mexican National manufacturing DTOs.

Area treatment providers report that methamphetamine is the most difficult drug to treat. Methamphetamine abusers are often excitable, displaying varying degrees of agitation and paranoia frequently associated with violent behavior. Untreated meth addicts are strongly associated with identity theft as a means of support.

The full extent of environmental damage from clandestine methamphetamine production is unknown. Soil and water supplies suffer from improper waste disposal.

The volume of pseudoephedrine (a precursor for the manufacturing of methamphetamine) entering the U.S. from Canada has been diminished due to the recent efforts of Canadian and American law enforcement. Taiwan is now becoming a major pseudoephedine source. California law enforcement agencies have seized large quantities of pseudoephedrine tablets that have been shipped from Taiwan by maritime container to Southern California for use by Mexican national DTOs.

MDMA, GHB, and other so-called “Club Drugs” have been identified as a threat and

are readily available in the urban areas of the NC HIDTA region. These drugs are prevalent in the nightclub and rave dance scenes, and the use of ecstasy resulted in at least three overdose deaths during 2003. The interdiction of these club drugs continues to be a high priority for many law enforcement agencies within the NC HIDTA's ten-county region. Asian crime groups are increasingly involved in the production and importation of MDMA. Many of these groups are also involved in identity theft and other fraudulent activities.

The diversion of prescription drugs is a growing concern in the NC HIDTA region; as reported to NDIC by treatment providers. Oxycontin and related drugs are popular, even among high-school users. Ritalin continues to be a concern, especially among young people.

Cocaine and heroin continue to be available to the NC HIDTA region's user population and are brought into the region primarily by Mexican national smuggling DTOs. Retail distribution is accomplished by local trafficking organizations. The region continues to be a distribution hub, responsible for the movement of heroin and cocaine to adjoining states and the Midwest. One drug treatment provider is reporting a recent dramatic increase in the number of persons seeking treatment for cocaine addiction. Most of the heroin and cocaine imported for trans-shipment is destined for the Pacific Northwest and Midwest.

Marijuana availability continues to be a threat. Marijuana is imported into the area from Mexico, Canada, and domestic source areas. Within the area, large commercial marijuana plantations are frequently seized on both private and public lands. The trend of Mexican National DTOs controlling these major operations continues. Medicinal cannabis cultivation cooperatives and sales to purported medically qualified people is a difficult issue, which occasionally brings Federal and local agencies into conflict. Federal agencies investigating these operations for violation of federal law find that local agencies are frequently unable to assist in these investigations due to directives from their local political leadership. Despite the complications to marijuana enforcement, several large seizures have been made of multiple hundreds, even multiple thousands of growing plants in Northern California. Indoor grows continue to be a concern, as they are difficult to detect.

Gangs and other violent groups conduct much of the area's street distribution of methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and marijuana. Violence is strongly associated with the drug business and with territorial/respect disputes. Outlaw motorcycle gangs are also actively involved in the drug trade. Some members are found to be involved in distribution of drugs or importation of marijuana from Canada, and some local distributors have ties to Mexican traffickers. Weapon and violent offenses are also part of their criminal involvement.

Khat is sometimes shipped into the area from Somalia and Yemen. It is not a significant threat at this time, but is monitored. Recently, the International Mail Facility was the site of seizures of dried Khat.

Strategy Abstract:

The NC HIDTA area includes the counties of Alameda (including Oakland), Contra Costa, Lake, Marin, Monterey, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara (San Jose), Santa Cruz and Sonoma. The Executive Board is comprised of sixteen local, state and federal law enforcement leaders from the region. The NC HIDTA Administrative and Intelligence Initiatives are located in the San Francisco Federal Building. Fourteen enforcement initiatives have received HIDTA funding for 2004, and thirteen will in 2005. These task forces are located throughout the region. They address the region's primary threats from methamphetamine, plus cocaine, club drugs, heroin, violent drug-related groups, and financial crimes (in 2005).

Investigative Support Center:

In support of the initiatives, NC HIDTA created a narcotic information network. This regional network is called the Bay Area Narcotics Information Network (BAYNIN). It provides operational deconfliction through the Western States Information Network (WSIN), which is part of the nationwide RISS project. This deconfliction system enhances officer safety for all enforcement groups within the NC HIDTA region, and is co-located with the Los Angeles Clearinghouse (LA CLEAR). LA CLEAR provides operational and target deconfliction to several HIDTA's in the western states.

The analysts of the NC HIDTA Intelligence Group provide research, intercept support, analysis, presentation materials, as well as training to drug investigators and other analysts in our region. This group has brought together multiple state, local and federal agencies through support of high- level OCDETF and CPOT cases. We have also supported our communities in emergencies such as drug-related violence episodes by helping to locate suspects and fugitives. The Intelligence Group, as the largest drug enforcement analysis unit in our region, has offered training to analysts in many departments. A two-week analyst course (FLEAT) was offered during 2004, co-sponsored by DEA and HIDTA.

Hands-on training in the use of tools and analytical methods has been provided through on site training at the HIDTA office for five local departments as well. We anticipate the growth of this program to include federal and National Guard analysts.

The BAYNIN Intelligence Group supports priority investigations region-wide. Connections between criminal groups are found by bringing analysts and investigators together, and by storing investigative data in NC HIDTA databases. This pooling of intelligence in a central location provides a conduit for developing and passing leads from one investigator to another. These investigators may be in the local area or in other states. The sharing within and across regions benefits the NC HIDTA as well as the nationwide drug enforcement effort.

NC HIDTA BAYNIN also maintains and staffs a wire intercept room containing the most advanced surveillance equipment available. This facility is available for use by any of the NC HIDTA initiatives or agencies. Information gathered through the use of this technology is shared with the BAYNIN Intelligence Group for analysis.

A regional equipment pool has been established by BAYNIN to make high technology counterdrug equipment available to all agencies within the NC HIDTA. The pool specializes in equipment that is too expensive for a single agency to own, but used frequently on a regional basis. The equipment pool is accessible 24 hours-per- day, seven-days-a-week.

The Intelligence Support Center also provides computer forensic support to NC HIDTA initiatives. Trained technicians are available to assist agents with the seizure of computers and related equipment and then later to conduct a forensic analysis of the equipment. This capability has been extremely useful in several investigations.

Significant Achievements:

Bay Area Transportation Initiative and Club Drug Strike Force: The NC HIDTA Transportation Initiative and Club Drug Strike Force targeted an international supplier of GBL, who was indicted in June 2004. The supplier was based in Aberdeen, Scotland, where GBL is legally distributed. However, it was not legal to sell it to customers in the U.S. Cooperation between the two initiatives and with Scottish authorities made this effort successful.

The Club Drug Initiative first targeted a primary customer based in the San Francisco area. The Transportation Initiative (BAHT, SF Airport Group) was able to develop other leads out of the area, ultimately assisting with the opening of investigations in other parts of California, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and other Western States. The BAHT has indicted the supplier and the primary customer in San Francisco.

This supplier provided the basis for roughly five million dosage units of GHB in a three- year period. His removal from commerce should reduce the availability of GHB in several U.S. locations.

Oakland Violent Drug Task Force: This initiative began in early 2003, targeting the most violent drug offenders in the Oakland area. These individuals are believed to be part of groups that fight for territory, like gangs, but have little to no formal structure. Oakland suffered from a very high homicide rate in 2003 (UCR listings show 109 murders for a population of 407,003). The Task Force hoped to have an impact on violence in Oakland. The investigation ultimately monitored several pen registers and wires, collecting numerous targets for indictment. Twenty or more subjects have been arrested and/or indicted in 2004. Since the arrests, the homicide rate in Oakland has been lower than the same point in 2003. While law enforcement is unable to scientifically draw a conclusion from this, we believe that the removal of numerous repeatedly violent offenders, on federal charges, has had an impact on the crime in Oakland.

Many targets of the investigation have extensive criminal histories for drug trafficking, firearms violations, felonious assault, assault with a deadly weapon, rape, and homicide. Investigation uncovered ties to past crimes of violence, solicitation of murder for hire, and other criminal dealings with violent criminal groups.

Additional indictments are possible as the data is analyzed. Follow-up investigations have been opened, and a connected case targeting a Mexican drug supplier has been assisted.

Each department in this task force brought its best talent, information, and support. This effort is an outstanding example of how local departments, state officials and federal agencies can partner up to make significant changes in a community.

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Last Updated: February 7, 2005