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Farmgate-to-Street Model of Narcotics Trafficking

NCJ Number
Robert W. Anthony Ph.D.
Date Published
January 2003
10 pages
After an overview of the complexity of the narcotics trafficking business, this paper identifies constraints on the drug business that apply generally across all traffickers and trafficking organizations; these constraints are then used to develop a mathematical scaling model designed to reduce the complexity of the cocaine business to a simple schematic.
For cocaine, moving from the coca farm to American streets can involve many different types of production, processing, smuggling, and related activities; and many of these are performed by quasi-independent contractors to the major drug trafficker organizations (MDTO's). Traffickers must operate in several countries and geographical conditions, and each business must perform several tasks in addition to buying and selling drugs; e.g., maintaining security, laundering money, communicating, moving products through hostile environments, and avoiding competitors and law enforcement operations. There are three constraints that permeate all traffickers and trafficking organizations. These are a lack of trust between and among drug market participants, competition among individuals and organizations seeking to profit from the illegal drug business, and threats from law enforcement operations. This paper posits that if each of these constraints applies universally to all trafficking enterprises and levels of operation, then it is possible to model a generic or typical trafficking enterprise as it attempts to cope with the three constraints. This paper uses data from the Drug Enforcement Administration's "System to Retrieve Information From Drug Evidence" (STRIDE) to portray mathematical scaling for all five of the major narcotics used in the United States. For cocaine, the paper uses a variety of additional data to extend the scaling back toward the top of the trafficker hierarchy to the MDTO's in the source zone and from there back down another hierarchy to the coca farm. Although this paper presents a static depiction of the scaling relationships, it references other work that analyzes the dynamic properties of the scaling model. Finally, the author explains how the scaling model contributes to each of the stated reasons for constructing models. 7 references


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