The illegal drug market in the United States is one of the most profitable in the world, and attracts the most sophisticated and aggressive drug traffickers (Drug pp). According to U.S. Customs Service, sixty million people enter the United States on more than 675,000 commercial and private flights, and another 6 million enter by sea, and some 370 million by land (Drug pp). Moreover, 116 million vehicles enter by crossing the Canadian and Mexican borders, and more than 90, 000 merchant and passenger ships dock at U.S. ports carrying more than 9 million shipping containers and 400 million tons of cargo, with an additional 157,000 smaller vessels docking at various coastal towns (Drug pp).
Amid all this trade, drug traffickers conceal cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine shipments for distribution into U.S. neighborhoods (Drug pp).
The traffic and distribution of illegal drugs involves diverse groups (Drug pp). Criminal groups operating from South America "smuggle cocaine and heroin into the United States via a variety of routes, including land routes through Mexico, maritime routes along Mexico's east and west coasts, sea routes through the Caribbean, and international air corridors" (Drug pp). Then there are criminal groups operating in Mexico that smuggle cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, amphetamine, and marijuana across the Southwest Border into the United States for distribution (Drug pp). Aside from the foreign import of drugs, there are domestic organizations that cultivate, produce, manufacture, and distribute illegal drugs such as marijuana, methamphetamine, phencyclidine, PCP, and lysergic acid diethyamide, LSD (Drug pp).
Traffickers try to ship the largest possible quantities to the widest range of destinations in the Untied States (Kaufman pp). Cocaine, for example, is generally smuggled in an aircraft that has the optimum balance between range and cargo capacity, such as the Piper Aztec, Piper Navajo, and the Cessna 400 series, most of which can transport approximately a ton of cocaine over a range of about 1,800 miles and can stay airborne for '11 and one hours with standard fuel systems" (Kaufman pp). Larger craft such as the DC-3 are common on shuttle flights between the United Sates and various transshipment points (Kaufman pp). A common auxiliary system for cocaine traffickers is the collapsible rubber fuel "bladder," which can be placed in the plane's fuselage and then simply folded up or thrown away after the fuel contained within it is sued, then the space occupied by the bladder on the trip to Columbia can be used for cocaine transport on the return trip to the United States (Kaufman pp). Generally, about 90% of the cocaine shipped by the Caribbean routes enters the United States at points along the Florida coast, however, many now deliver shipments to all points along the Gulf Coast and elsewhere throughout the United States (Kaufman pp). The majority of Colombian marijuana is shipped to the United States on large mother-ships, typically fishing vessels or freighters that can hold tons of marijuana that hover fifty miles or so off the U.S. coast in international waters and are then met by small ships, such as shrimp boats, that off-load and ferry the drug shipment to U.S. shores (Kaufman pp).
The United States Customs Service, an agency of the U.S. Treasury Department, is the primary enforcement agency protecting the United States, and is the only border agency with an extensive air, land, and marine interdiction force and that has an investigative component supported by its own intelligence branch (Smuggling pp). U.S. Customs has reported that drug smugglers conceal narcotics in propane tanks, engines, food products, electronic games, soup cans, and computer parts (Constant pp). However, whenever Customs uncovers one method of concealment by drug smugglers, the smugglers simply look for alternatives (Constant pp). In other words, the better Customs is at finding the drugs, the more creative smugglers get at hiding them (Constant pp). Recently, Miami inspectors discovered 72 kilos of cocaine concealed inside cans of butter, and California inspectors found 315 kilos of marijuana inside decorative rocks (Constant pp). Customs discovered that a smuggler crossing the border in a pickup truck, had several pounds of cocaine hidden in a tombstone (Constant pp). Inspectors found narcotics surgically implanted in an English sheepdog who arrived at New York's JFK Airport, the dog was carrying ten cocaine-filled balloons implanted in his abdomen (Constant pp). Inspectors have found heroin concealed in the waistband of a pair of homemade briefs and narcotics concealed in the soles of passengers' shoes, and in women's makeup compacts (Constant pp). Smugglers endure painful surgical implants to conceal drugs in their legs, abdomen, and stomach (Constant pp). Inspectors have discovered women who had concealed narcotics inside wigs and hairpieces that had been sewn and glued to their heads (Constant pp).
One eighty-two-year-old woman from Bogota died in a taxi at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York when a pellet full of narcotics ruptured in her stomach (Sesin pp). In another incident, a woman and her sixteen-year-old son were serving as drug mules when they arrived in New York, a pellet burst in the boy's stomach on their way to a Queens' hotel, where he died in the hotel room (Sesin pp).
DEA agents discovered corrugated cardboard boxes that were used to smuggle straws filled with heroin (DEA pp). The traffickers wedged the drinking straws into the spaces inside the corrugated cardboard to conceal them inside the walls of boxes that were packed with seafood and was shipped from Nicaragua to a seafood company in Miami and then transported to New York City for distribution (DEA pp). In May 2005, Border Patrol agents from Las Cruces seized fifty pounds of cocaine discovered in two false compartments on the side panels of a 1999 Ford Explorer (Las pp).
In 2002, Customs agents seized more than 3,200 pounds of cocaine from five vessels that arrived in Miami from Haiti (Allen pp). According to Matthew Allen, with every Customs success the smugglers adapt their techniques to minimize the discovery of their cargo, "On the Miami River, for example, drugs that were previously concealed in rudimentary compartments in areas readily accessible by the crew have now moved farther and deeper into the depths of vessels" (Allen pp). These five seizures were all discovered within the keel of the boats used to smuggle the contraband (Allen pp).
Macomb County, Michigan, Sheriff Mark Hackel says, "If you're in the marijuana business, you have to be innovative ... If you keep doing the same thing all the time, people will catch on" (Lynch pp). Macomb County law enforcement officials followed tips to four upscale homes that had been turned into marijuana production centers, contrary to the remote shacks or homes in rural settings that were more typical for in-house growing operations (Lynch pp). In 2004, Wayne County sheriff's deputies patrolling the Detroit River stopped a man on a Jet Ski and discovered 26 pounds of marijuana that he was bringing over from Canada, and a boat stopped on the river produced a bust of 300 pounds of marijuana (Lynch pp). Oakland County deputies stopped several semi-trucks that have turned up marijuana hidden in special compartments in vacuum-sealed packages to evade detection by police dogs (Lynch pp).
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, drug traffickers are now using women and children as human mules to transport heroin and cocaine from California to Pittsburgh and other eastern cities on Greyhound buses (Reilly pp). Officials say that this is the result of the September 11th terrorist attacks because there is less security at bus depots (Reilly pp). Local women and children are loaded up with contraband that they carry on their bodies and in their luggage for the bus trips (Reilly pp). In 2002, the DEA in Miami arrested 73 mules, and in 2003, arrested 84 (Reilly pp).
In 2004, U.S. authorities arrested a sixteen-year-old girl who was carrying 8 pounds of marijuana hidden in her backpack (Hamilton pp). According to prosecutors, the girl was being paid $300 a trip to work as a drug mule for smugglers moving marijuana from Canada into the United States (Hamilton pp).
The girl's home, in Point Roberts, Washington, borders British Columbia in an area with relatively light border patrol, which, say authorities made it easy for her to get the drugs from Canada before boarding her school bus in the morning (Hamilton pp).
Law officers in Lebanon, Tennessee discovered marijuana hidden in chili and jalapeno pepper cans (Humbles pp). Drug enforcement agents say that the unusual becomes the norm when it comes to drug smuggling (Humbles pp). Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe said he has found drugs in car mufflers, stuffed in spare tires, inside toys, footballs, basketballs, gas tanks, car batteries, diapers, laundry detergent boxes, mailed packages, compartments under the floor of a house, car dashboards, radios, television sets, engine blocks, and even in bags of dog food (Humbles pp). More than $1.4 million worth of cocaine was discovered when it was shipped through the mail in potato cans (Humbles pp). According to drug enforcement officials,…