the new social organization of the illegal narcotics trade
The LA Times has a series of interesting articles on the rise of a new type heroine trading ring (here, here, and here). Normally, the drug trade is a fairly centralized affair, with a few syndicates violently battling for dominance within a specific urban area. And each syndicate is often a hierarchically organized network.
There’s been a rise in a new type of network that peddles a low quality form of heroine (“black tar”) in small towns and rural areas. A few key points:
- Rural folks vs. urbanites: The black tar peddlers are mainly from a very rural part of Xalisco, Mexico. In contrast, the major drug cartels are centered in major urban centers.
- High vs. low margins: Black tar peddlers target places that are overlooked by the major crime families and they’re willing to accept some low profits.
- Networks vs. hierarchies: Black tar peddlers have informally organized themselves. There’s no “don” or crime boss. The point is to be as low profile as possible.
- Pizza delivery vs. department store: Black tar peddlers don’t make their customers travel. They deliver – fast and cheap. This is unlike urban areas where buyers go street markets.
- Direct marketing: Black tar peddlers often target methodone clinics, oxycontin addicts, and others who might be unusually suscpetible to black tar additiction. No need to “push it” on the inexperienced. The black tar peddlers also acquire clients by personal reference from current addicts.
It’ll be interesting for crimimologists and orgtheorists to see if this is part of a wider shift, or just a specialized development.