Friday, January 27, 2012

Reducing Drug Trafficking in The United States

Hello classmates,
I hope you are doing well. It is nearing the end of our capstone class and I have enjoyed it immensely. As I continue to work on this blog and put the final touches on it, I have realized how much I have used my field of employment to tie into my Communication Classes. It is apparent and obvious that communication plays a vital role in law enforcement, but even more so I have been able to apply what I am learning to the particular field and learn about different topics. This next paper that I will be posting is from my ENG122 class. It is a research/position paper on Reducing Drug Trafficking in the United States. Besides high school, I found this paper to be quite challenging and a paper in which I had to devote a lot of time researching for information. I learned to sort out the fluff and write about what was relevant and important to making my point. The most important lesson I learned from writing this paper is that it is important to have facts and accurate information to take a stand on an issue.

Reducing Drug Trafficking in the United States
In the United States, drug trafficking is a major problem. The U.S. Department of Justice (2010), states “the availability of illicit drugs in the United States is increasing” (p. 1). The United States receives many drugs all over the country. Many countries are able to import their drugs to the United States. One country in particular, that has a significant amount of drug trafficking is Mexico near the Southwest Border. Mexico borders the United States and has easy access to pushing drugs through. According to The National Drug Threat Assessment (2010), Mexico has seen an increase in production specifically with two drugs, Marijuana and Methamphetamine. (p.1). The United States is continuously working on ways to reduce the flow of drug trafficking. The United States has created policies and restrictions that have been put into place to help reduce the problem. Working with Mexico and other U.S. agencies as well as continued and increased enforcement will help decrease the trafficking of drugs.
Marijuana and Methamphetamine
             According to Drugs of Abuse (1997),“The term marijuana, as commonly used, refers to the leaves and flowering tops of the cannabis plant” (p. 37). Marijuana is a “green-leafy” plant that has a distinct smell. “Marijuana is usually smoked in the form of loosely rolled cigarettes called joints or hollowed out commercial cigars called blunts” (U.S. Department of Justice, 1997, pg. 37). Marijuana has many different names that are common throughout the United States. Some names are: Mary Jane, pot, and weed. Marijuana can be found throughout the United States and is a popular drug among many. Some effects of marijuana include, “increased heart rate, dryness of mouth, reddening of the eyes, impaired motor skills and concentration, and frequently hunger and an increase desire for sweets” (U.S. Department of Justice, 1997, pg. 38).
            Methamphetamine is a highly abusive drug and according to NIDA (2010),  
Methamphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant drug. Methamphetamine is also known as “Meth.” Methamphetamine …is a white odorless, bitter-tasting powder taken orally or by snorting or injecting, or a rock ‘crystal’ that is heated and smoked. Methamphetamine affects the brain and creates “euphoria” to the user. Since methamphetamine affects the brain, there are several serious problems that can affect the brain. (p. 1-2)
 According to the NIDA (2010), the long-term use can actually change the way the brain functions (p. 2). This drug has many other ways it can affect the user. Some of these negative effects are, “extreme weight loss, severe dental problems (“meth mouth”), anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances, and violent behavior” (NIDA, 2010, p. 2).
            It is apparent that these two drugs can be highly addictive and it is important that the United States continues to reduce the flow of trafficking with Mexico. There are many negative side effects that will affect the user with continued use. These drugs can be abused easily, and with easy access to these drugs it is only going to keep affecting the population of the United States.
The Smuggling and Trafficking of Drugs A long The Southwest Border
            Drug trafficking is a complex problem that is very advanced when it comes to smuggling drugs from the border through to the United States. The roadways, the sky, and underground passages, are all used to transport drugs from one side to the other. According to the National Drug Threat Assessment (2010),  “These means include the construction and use of cross-border tunnels and subterranean passageways, and some increased use of low-flying small or ultralight aircraft, which most often are used to smuggle marijuana” (p. 14). The smugglers use the roadways and officers near the border and in any state can produce a traffic stop. From a law enforcement officer’s experience, I have conducted several stops in which the basic red light violation can turn into a drug investigation. Officers along the border and in any state have used basic traffic violations to further investigate drugs. 
With that being said the Drug Enforcement Administration (2010),
…has created two operations that focus on the traffic that is around the areas of the borders and in states where drug trafficking is a problem. The operations are:  Operation Pipeline and Operation Convoy. Operation Pipeline focuses on the roadways, highways and smugglers that are operating in private motor vehicles. The operation is composed of three elements: training, real-time communication, and analytic support. Operation Convoy focuses on the use of commercial vehicles and involves undercover officers and wiretaps. (para. 2-3)
United States Strategies on Methamphetamine
The methamphetamine issue has been a problem for more than a decade. In 1996 the United States created some strategies and specific penalties to enforce on the methamphetamine issue. “Analysis of available data indicates that methamphetamine availability in the United States is directly related to methamphetamine production trends in Mexico, which is the primary source of methamphetamine consumed in the United States” (US Department of Justice, 2010). The two strategies that were put into place are the 1996 National Methamphetamine Strategy and the Methamphetamine Trafficking Penalty Enhancement Act. (Executive Office, 1999) The 1996 Act “increases the penalties for production and trafficking while expanding control over precursor chemicals” (Executive Office, 1999). The Enhancement Act focuses on targeting businesses or companies that supply or sell the “precursor chemicals” to methamphetamine producers. (Executive Office, 1999) Since these have been put into place in the beginning there was a decrease in the production of methamphetamine. (U.S. Department of Justice, 2010) Presently and in the last couple of years methamphetamine has increased production specifically in Mexico. (U.S. Department of Justice, 2010) Drug traffickers have been able to find ways to import the “precursor chemicals” and find other alternatives to use in producing methamphetamine (U.S. Department of Justice, 2010).
Marijuana and Eradication
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been focusing on marijuana growth in the United States. A program was implemented called the Domestic Marijuana Eradication and Investigation Project, this program specifically targets, “Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTO) involved in cannabis cultivation” (Drug Enforcement Administration, para. 1). The success of this program is due to sharing of information within the different agencies (Drug Enforcement Administration). In Mexico the production of marijuana has increased, due to the fact that law enforcement has had to focus their resources on the ongoing violence that has been occurring on the Southwest Border. (U.S. Department of Justice, 2010) 
Mexico and the United States have strived to put programs into place to decrease the reduction of drug trafficking. Some of these programs have been put into place more than a decade ago. It is important to look at some of the trends and see which programs are being upgraded and changed. With the amount of drug trafficking that can occur the United States and Mexico are constantly looking for ways to improve their tactics. Many of the drug trafficking organizations in Mexico have found ways to get drugs through to the United States.
The National Southwest Border Counternarcotic Strategy
In June of 2009, President Obama announced a new strategy, The National Southwest Border Counternarcotic Strategy.  Secretary Napolitano (Homeland Security, 2009), stated:
The plan calls for tougher inspections, more enforcement personnel and close coordination with our partners in Mexico as we work across Federal, State and local governments to achieve safety and security in our communities. Together, we will continue to reduce the flow of illegal drugs across the Southwest border and ensure that those who ignore our laws are prosecuted. (para. 4)
            It is important that Mexico and the United States continue to work together. With this National Strategy implemented, both governments hope that drug trafficking and the violence will continue to decrease. This plan focuses on the ability to share intelligence between the two countries and work with many types of law enforcement agencies that are stationed throughout the Southwest border. (Homeland Security, 2009)
Southwest Border Initiative
            The Southwest Border Initiative (SWBI) has been put into place since 1994 and continues to have a positive impact on the fight against drugs. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration,
The SWBI attacks organizations by targeting the communication systems of their command and control centers. Working in concert, the DEA, the FBI, U.S. Customs Service, and U.S. Attorneys offices around the country conduct wiretaps that ultimately identify all levels of the Mexico- or Colombia-based organizations. This strategy allows the DEA to track the seamless continuum of drug traffic as it gradually flows from Colombia or Mexico to the streets of the United States where it is distributed. (para. 2)
            It is important to look at this initiative and to see how many agencies are actually involved. As is apparent there are numerous amounts of resources that are being used to work on the drug trafficking problem. It is important that the information continues to be shared and good communication is vital.
 The governments continue to work with agencies to be successful in their tactics. The SWBI has been successful. Three operations known as, Operation Zorro II, Operation Reciprocity, and Operation Limelight have been very successful. Statistics showed that because of these operations, “…resulted in the arrest of 156 individuals and the seizure of over 22,000 kilos of illegal drugs and $35 million” (Drug Enforcement Administration, para. 4).
Drug Trafficking Organizations and Criminal Gangs
            Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) are located all over the United States and foreign countries. These organizations focus on moving drugs through different areas. The National Threat Assessment (2010), indicates that “…Mexican DTOs constitute the greatest drug trafficking threat to the United States. Mexican DTOs are more deeply entrenched in drug trafficking activities in the United States than any other DTOs” (p. 9). This means that these Mexican organizations have areas in the United States that they work with that help produce, import, and export drugs to different areas (U.S. Department of Justice, 2010). This can create an easier flow of drug trafficking as well as easy access to obtain more drugs into the United States.
            Criminal Gangs are also a major source of where drugs can come from. It is apparent that gangs are located all over the United States as well as in Mexico. Several of these gangs work with the DTOs to obtain drugs and sell at a competitive price. (U.S. Department of Justice, 2010) According to the National Drug Threat Assessment (2010), “there are nearly 1 million active gang members in the United States…”  (p. 12). It is important that the United States and Mexico continue to look at the influences of gangs. It is clear that there is a significant amount of gangs that are involved in the drug trade. “The influence of Hispanic and African American street gangs is expanding as these gangs gain greater control over drug distribution in rural and suburban areas and acquire drugs directly from DTOs in Mexico or along the Southwest Border” (U.S. Department of Justice, 2010, p. 9).
            There are many different organizations and gangs that are involved in the drug trade that is a continuous problem. Law enforcement as well as the Southwest Border must continue to focus on these areas. A lot of these organizations and gangs are dangerous and can bring about violence. A lot of these organizations also are in possession of guns. It is apparent that whenever drugs are involved as seen in movies, the news, and personal experience as a law enforcement officer, guns can and most likely will be involved. This can create a dangerous situation for any official that is in contact with these types of criminals. Drugs are a serious problem and must be taken seriously.
Drug trafficking is a source of corruption and it endangers and affects the quality of life of many in the general population. It is important for the United States and Mexico to work together in order to try to reduce the problem. Drug trafficking brings about violence, increase in weapons, and drug abuse in the United States. It is an everyday occurrence and it is important the United States continues to find ways to reduce drug trafficking.


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