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Philadelphia/Camden HIDTA

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

Philadelphia County

    New Jersey: City of Camden New Jersey within Camden County
    Contact: (215) 560-1661, www.hidta.info

Mission Statement:

The Philadelphia/Camden HIDTA will use a multi-faceted program to reduce the cultivation, production, trafficking, distribution, and use of illegal drugs. The Philadelphia/Camden HIDTA will increase the safety and quality of life of the citizens in the Philadelphia/Camden region by measurably reducing drug-related crime and violence.

Threat Abstract:

The Philadelphia/Camden HIDTA was designated in 1995. The location of Philadelphia and Camden on the eastern seaboard, particularly their proximity to New York, places the cities on one of the busiest illegal drug transit routes. Major interstate rail and highway systems; a major international airport, one of the fastest growing in the world; and key shipping terminals on the 100 miles of waterfront along the Delaware River facilitate drug trafficking into and through the region. The Port of Philadelphia/Camden is a major international seaport and the second largest seaport in the nation. Multi-kilogram shipments of cocaine are trafficked through this port. Major New York drug trafficking organizations use Philadelphia as a transshipment point for their drugs, drug- proceeds, and illegal guns. New York gangs have expanded their territory to the outskirts of the area.

There are approximately 370 open-air markets in PC HIDTA Region. Cocaine is sold at most of these locations. Philadelphia remains the source city for cocaine distribution in central and northeastern Pennsylvania and Delaware. According to the mortality data from Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), there were 784 drug related deaths in 2002. Of the nearly 1.9 million visits to Philadelphia area Emergency Departments (ED) in 2002, about 1 percent (27,753) were related to drug abuse. According to the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring program data (ADAM),
76.2 percent of adult male arrestees in Philadelphia tested positive for abusing at least one drug, i.e., cocaine, opiates, marijuana, methamphetamine or phencyclidine (PCP), in 2002.

Crack is one of the most widely available illicit drugs in Philadelphia and Camden. The North and West areas of the city continue to be sources of supply. Crack appears to be the drug of choice in the inner city minority population centers; however, heroin after marijuana use is on the rise and may replace crack.

Heroin is plentiful, inexpensive, easily administered (snorted rather than intravenously) and is being aggressively marketed. Philadelphia is the source city for the PC HIDTA area, including Delaware. There were 344 heroin related deaths in Philadelphia in 2002. South American heroin is the most prevalent type available in the PC HIDTA region. Philadelphia has the highest purity (80-90%) in the nation according to the DEA.

Marijuana is readily available and widely abused illicit drug in the Philadelphia/Camden region. A variety of ethnic DTOs, criminal groups, independent dealers, and street gangs distribute and transport marijuana using a variety of methods. There was a total of 46 marijuana related deaths in Philadelphia in 2002. The Philadelphia area is ranked 1 st in the nation in the number of marijuana related ED mention per 100,000 population in 2002. Methamphetamine poses an increasing threat to the PC HIDTA region. Although methamphetamine abuse is at low levels in the PC HIDTA region, the availability and production of the drug appears to be increasing. There was a total of 17 methamphetamine related deaths in Philadelphia in 2002.

MDMA (Ecstasy) is the most frequently abused and available club drug in the PC HIDTA region. Most MDMA available in the PC HIDTA region is produced in the Netherlands and is smuggled into New York City and then transported via private vehicle to Philadelphia by a variety of criminals.

Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is a behavioral, central nervous system depressant. It is most commonly sold as a colorless, bitter or salty-tasting liquid, but also is available as a crystal powder. GHB is available at low levels and stable prices in the PC HIDTA region.

Inhalant abuse is an emerging problem in the region. Inhalants are everyday products that are abused for the purpose of reaching a high. Pennsylvania was chosen as one of the first states to use the Inhalant Abuse Prevention Program- an experimental program designed to provide school guidance counselors with the materials to teach parents and students about the dangers and signs of inhalant abuse.

Diverted pharmaceuticals, (e.g. benzodiazepine, Codeine, Fentanyl, methadone, morphine and oxycodone) remain a concern in the PC HIDTA region.

Strategy Abstract:

The Philadelphia/Camden HIDTA Executive Board is comprised of eighteen local, state, and Federal law enforcement leaders in the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Specifically, this HIDTA's area of responsibility includes the cities of Philadelphia and Camden respectively. A unified effort among law enforcement and prosecution agencies ensures a coordinated effort to reduce the impact of cocaine and heroin distribution within the region. Coordinated activities extend throughout the State of Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey. A total of twenty-three agencies participate in eleven HIDTA Initiatives.

The PCHIDTA Strategy is a coordinated, four tiered operation; Street-level/open-air drug markets, Mid-level suppliers, Interdiction and Money Laundering. Street- level and open-air drug markets are investigated by the Drug Violence Intelligence Initiative in Philadelphia and Operation Sunburst in Camden. These Initiatives are supported by the Criminal Conspiracy Task Force, the Centerpiece Task Force, Major Drug Heroin Task Force and the Violent Crimes/Fugitive Task Force with an investigative purpose to determine mid-level suppliers, seize weapons and locate the most dangerous drug/homicide fugitives. The Interdiction Initiative is composed of four task forces with an investigative focus on drug trafficking organizations using the Philadelphia International Airport, the Philadelphia/Camden Seaport, area hotels/motels and parcel delivery services to import drugs and export proceeds.

Investigative Support Center:

The Suspect Pointer Index Network (SPIN) database allows for real-time sharing of intelligence information between PCHIDTA agencies. Officers at the Watch Center access the SPIN database and search the system by entering specific perpetrator /address locations into the database. If another agency has an active investigation on the target it will come up as a hit. Participating agencies can access SPIN through PCHIDTA's network. The Watch Center expects to support member agencies. Over 4,500 SPIN entries are projected for

The Philadelphia Police Department has initiated a new gun recovery program. The new program involves giving monetary rewards to citizens who provide information, which results in an arrest involving a firearm. The Philadelphia/Camden HIDTA's watch center personnel participated in training Philadelphia Police Department personnel to do appropriate databases searches with DIGS supplied by PCHIDTA. The goal of the program continues to be removing firearms from the street and reduce crime and the associated violence.

The ISC will continue to do inquires and appropriate case support on all shootings incidents in the City of Philadelphia. The newly implemented Shooting Report Database created by Philadelphia/Camden HIDTA will facilitate this responsibility. This report will be reviewed for possible connections to PPD INCT data and to active cases both at the FBI and those currently entered into SPIN. This shooting database will be accessible over DIGS.

Philadelphia/Camden HIDTA will continue to analyze drug arrests through the Hidden Traffickers program and how certain enforcement programs may be impacting on drug traffickers and changing the patterns of drug sales on non-resident buyers and sellers. The ISC has in place a case support-tracking database. This database tracks any assistance given to participating agencies for their investigations. In 2004 the ISC is in the process of creating procedures to review the value of the intelligence given to each agency. This new procedure will result in the evaluation of our case support thereby customizing the intelligence to the particular agency's needs. Over 1,900 case supports are projected.

In 2004, the Philadelphia FBI together with the HIDTA developed a process for participating agencies to electronically request FBI file searches. This process that uses an ACCESS database located on the HIDTA computer network, provides a direct link between the ISC and FBI. This process is waiting formal approval by FBI HDQTS and implementation is expected in 2004. If successful it will be expanded to other select police units and Federal agencies. Search criteria and results will remain in the database for continual availability under DIGS as a pointer system.

Existing databases already on the HIDTA computer network will be reviewed to ensure that key fields i.e. names, addresses, identification numbers (FBI #, SID, PPN, SSAN etc) are as complete as possible for each record and that each record has been thoroughly “mapped” under DIGS for maximum analytic capability. This will insure that critical intelligence is not being lost, and that full integration of data sources is being accomplished. 100% compliance projected.

Participating Agencies:

Federal: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, Joint Task Force Six, U.S. Attorney's Office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Marshals Service, and
U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

State/Local: Pennsylvania Bureau of Narcotics Investigations, New Jersey National Guard, New Jersey State Police, Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, Pennsylvania National Guard, Pennsylvania State Police, Camden County, New Jersey Prosecutor's Office, Camden Police Department, Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, Philadelphia Police Department, and University of Pennsylvania Police Department.

Significant Achievements:

Joint Camden Task Force Camden, NJ -------
The following investigation was spearheaded by the Initiative with significant contribution from Group 11 of the PC HIDTA, Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands HIDTA, and the Puerto Rico State Police . In November 2003, initiative detectives completed an investigation regarding the Benitez DTO. The cocaine and heroin that the organization was controlling supplied seven drug sets. Results of that investigation included the arrest of 17 participants of the organization as well as a large quantity of drugs, weapons, and cash. The organizational structure of the operation from top to bottom was completely dismantled including 2 Puerto Rican suppliers of the drugs. The organization had an elaborate re-canning system wherein the Puerto Rican source of supply of the cocaine and heroin would secrete bulk quantities of the drugs within vacuum-packed cans of food. The sealed drugs were immersed in the food, rendering it virtually undetectable. The sealed cans were then shipped from Puerto Rico to various residential locations in Camden. Information on the shipments was gleaned via an electronic surveillance that was being conducted by the Initiative.

Criminal Conspiracy Squad - ATF Philadelphia, PA -------
One organization has been disrupted/dismantled with 8 defendants indicted and arrested on various Federal Firearms and Narcotics violations. This OCDETF investigation, Operation High Rider, was investigated jointly with DEA & FBI and was initiated after community complaints of violence associated with a methamphetamine trafficking group operating in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia. This group was supported by the Warlocks Outlaw Motorcycle Gang.

This investigation is continuing and additional arrests are expected.

Investigations into two other drug organizations continue, as they are long term in basis. One of those continuing investigations, OCDETF case “Operation Fastbreak” has yielded, to date, 20 defendants as the case is proceeding towards the upper levels of the organization. To date, there have been 25 related shootings that have been matched through ballistics imaging that is attributed to the group.

Parcel Squad – USPIS Philadelphia, PA -------
In November 2003, a significant cocaine trafficking organization was disrupted by the HIDTA Parcel Squad. Postal Inspectors interdicted three UPS parcels in Philadelphia, PA that were shipped from Oakland, CA. A federal search warrant was obtained for the parcels and found to contain a total of 32 kilograms of cocaine secreted in computer towers. The parcels were addressed to an individual at a mail drop in Philadelphia, PA. Further investigation revealed that two more parcels were waiting for this individual at the mail drop. These two parcels had arrived the day before and were immediately seized by agents. A controlled delivery of the three parcels was conducted with the assistance of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and the HIDTA Mass Transportation Squad. After the subject returned to his hotel room with the parcels, he opened one of the parcels and was subsequently arrested.

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Last Updated: February 7, 2005

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