Chicago is a key drug trafficking hub for Mexican cartels

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has released an Intelligence Report called The Drug Situation in the Chicago Field Division. The Executive Summary explains that Chicago has become a regional operations hub for Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations, for reasons similar to those that draw many other commercial operations to Chicago. Following is a birds-eye view of cartel involvement in the Chicago region:

  • The vast majority of drugs entering Chicago and the surrounding region, including fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances, heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, are smuggled across the United States–Mexico border.
  • Availability and abuse of those drugs in the region is high. Opioids are most prevalent in major cities and methamphetamine in rural areas.
  • The primary organizational threats within the DEA Chicago Field Division (Northern and Central Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin) are Mexican cartels that distribute illicit drugs through trusted intermediaries to local street gangs for sale at the retail level.
  • Greater Chicago’s huge volume of legitimate trade and its vast transportation infrastructure, along with hundreds of warehouses and storage facilities, have been taken advantage of to make it one of the United States’ most significant drug trafficking hubs.
  • Drugs are transported from Mexico to the U.S. via a wide range of vehicles, most notably tractor trailers, commercial buses, and personal automobiles.
  • Chicago also serves as a significant collection and consolidation point for drug-sale proceeds, which are typically either smuggled back across the southwest border to Mexico in bulk, or are processed by money laundering organizations operating in the region.
  • The city’s large population and demographics enhance its attractiveness as a base of operations for Mexican drug trafficking organizations. In addition to Chicago being the third largest city in the United States, the Chicago metropolitan area is home to the nation's second largest Mexican-born constituency, after Los Angeles. The DEA adds that Mexican cartels often seek to exploit ethnic and familial connections.
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