Research on Upper Level Drug Trafficking: A Review

By Desroches, Frederick | Journal of Drug Issues, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview

Research on Upper Level Drug Trafficking: A Review


Desroches, Frederick, Journal of Drug Issues


This article examines research on upper level drug traffickers in the U.S., the UK, Canada, and the Netherlands. Included is an analysis and critique of typologies of drug traffickers and theoretical models of organized crime as they apply to upper level drug networks. Studies of higher level drug trafficking indicate that drug markets represent informal and loosely organized associations of relatively small syndicates or crews of independent drug entrepreneurs. They compete for market share and deal primarily or exclusively with trusted associates chosen from ethnic, kinship, and friendship networks. Most dealers are highly cautious, eschew the use of violence, typically make huge profits, attempt to maintain a low profile, rationalize their conduct as business activity, and operate within geographically niche markets.

THE NATURE OF DRUG TRAFFICKING

Drag trafficking is an activity that involves the importation, manufacturing, cultivation, distribution, and/or sale of illicit drags. In this hierarchical system, narcotics are moved from smugglers, growers, or manufacturers to wholesalers who pass the product down through the chain of distribution to retailers and eventually to the consumer or drag user. By its very nature, drag trafficking involves social networks in which several persons engage in an ongoing illegal commercial activity for profit. Traffickers use the terms "supplier" or "source" to refer to the person above them in the distribution chain and from whom they purchase their drugs. Importers typically have connections in source countries and smuggle drags such as cocaine, heroin, hashish, and marijuana into host countries. Growers produce marijuana crops often through sophisticated hydroponic operations while manufacturers produce methamphetamines and other designer drugs in laboratories. The terms "distributor" or "wholesaler" describe dealers who purchase drugs in large quantities and sell them to other distributors or dealers down the chain.

There is no clear consensus as to what constitutes upper level drug trafficking. Terms used in the literature include upper level and higher level drug traffickers, importers, smugglers, middle-level dealers, distributors, suppliers, wholesalers, drug-brokers, go-betweens, and facilitators. This paper examines the research literature on upper level illicit drug markets and defines higher level traffickers as importers, growers, manufacturers, or wholesalers who market large quantities of illicit drugs to other dealers. This definition is relatively clear and broad enough to include the various definitions of upper level drug trafficking in the research literature. The terms dealer, broker, supplier, distributor, and wholesaler are used interchangeably in this paper to refer to higher (upper) level drug traffickers. The paper focuses primarily on those studies that have undertaken empirical research on upper level drug trafficking and on research conducted in North America and Europe. Excluded from the analysis are drug dealers who sell directly to drug users and who are referred to as "retailers," "pushers," "lower level dealers," or "street level dealers." Also excluded are studies of drug trafficking organizations in source and transit countries such as Columbia, Afghanistan, and Mexico.

THE LIMITED RESEARCH ON UPPER LEVEL DRUG TRAFFICKING

There are fewer than a dozen relevant studies worldwide that deal with upper level drug distribution. These include research conducted in the U.S. (Adler, 1985; Hafley & Tewksbury, 1995; Natarajan & Belanger, 1998; Reuter & Haaga, 1989), Britain (Dorn, Murji, & South, 1992; Dorn, Lutz, & White, 1998; Pearson & Hobbs, 2001,2003), the Netherlands (van Duyne, 1996; Zaitch, 2002a, 2002b), and Canada (Desroches, 2005). Reasons for the paucity of research have to do with the highly covert and elusive nature of upper level drug trafficking; the relatively small number of dealers at this level; and the covert, secretive, and often uncooperative nature of law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Research on Upper Level Drug Trafficking: A Review
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.