Regional Threat Summary

The seven-county Liberty Mid Atlantic HIDTA (LMA HIDTA) is contained within the seventh largest metropolitan area in the United States, comprising 6 million people. Approximately 100 million additional people live within a one day drive of the LMA HIDTA. The region’s ethnic diversity and varying degrees of economic prosperity contribute significantly to the amount of drug trafficking and distribution, illicit financial activity, and violent crime that occurs in each county. The LMA HIDTA sits within one of the most dangerous and violent regions in the nation, as Philadelphia, Camden, and Wilmington (DE) remain near the top of the rankings of the most violent cities in the country.

Heroin, fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances, prescription drugs (principally opioids), cocaine, and marijuana are the primary drug threats to the LMA HIDTA. Fentanyl-related overdose deaths exploded throughout the LMA HIDTA in 2016, with heroin-related overdose deaths maintaining upward growth. In response, law enforcement, policy makers, and the public health communities are constantly monitoring, assessing, responding to this dangerous trend. Additionally, the HIDTA Overdose Response Strategy (hyperlink to addressing the issue page) strives to enhance relationships between public health and law enforcement entities to advance overdose-related information collection and sharing practices.

Home to 6 million people, the metropolitan Philadelphia area continues to experience high levels of substance abuse, drug trafficking and drug-related violence in densely populated urban centers such as Philadelphia, Wilmington and Camden, and increasingly these same problems are reported in more affluent suburban and rural sections of the region. 

DTOs and money laundering organizations (MLOs) operating in southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and northern Delaware are closely linked to larger domestic and international criminal groups, whom they depend on for drug supply and are obligated to return cash proceeds.  Mexican DTOs, linked with transnational criminal organizations such as the Gulf, Sinaloa, La Familia, Los Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar), and Juarez cartels, or their domestic cells, remain the dominant suppliers of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine.

Urban areas within the LMA HIDTA consistently rank among the most dangerous and violent regions in the country, due in no small part to the impact of drug trafficking, distribution, and drug-related violent crime.  Throughout the LMA HIDTA, territorial violence is rampant within inner-city neighborhoods, extending now more frequently to suburban communities where distribution groups as well as neighborhood-based and nationally-connected street gangs compete for control of profitable drug markets using violence and intimidation tactics.

  • Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) will continue to increase their presence and influence in the Lower Delaware Valley. They continue to transport large amounts of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, and have ties to Dominican and Colombian DTOs. In addition, the increased trafficking of Mexican methamphetamine into the region poses a viable threat in the coming year(s).
  • The diversion and abuse of licit prescription pharmaceuticals continues to negatively impact the region. Whether used by young people consuming legitimate prescriptions obtained for others, or in combination with illicit street drugs by long-term users, abuse of licit pharmaceuticals constitutes a considerable threat to the health and safety of the community.
  • The distribution and abuse of heroin will continue throughout the region, noteworthy because of the increased level of abuse in the suburban counties surrounding Philadelphia.
  • As drug-related violence along the Southwest border continues, the threat to the Lower Delaware Valley increases. The Mexican DTOs operating in the area maintain ties to these regions thus increasing the chances of spillover in this region as the violence escalates outside of the immediate geographical area of the Southwest border.

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