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Western Hemisphere Organized Crime

Western Hemisphere Organized Crime

Western Hemisphere Organized Crime

The FBI remains focused on efforts to counter transnational criminal threats originating from the western hemisphere—in particular, in three critical areas of criminal activity known as the source zone (where the activity originates), the transit zone (the areas through which the activity passes), and the retail zone (the activity’s ultimate destination).  

Source zone countries such as Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia account for all the coca harvested in the world, while Mexico is the largest producer of heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana in the western hemisphere. The paramount crime issue in the source zone is the production of illicit narcotics, followed by money laundering, alien smuggling, illegal weapons trafficking, and human trafficking. The transnational criminal organizations enriched and empowered by these activities are responsible for much of the violence in this zone.

The transit zone is comprised of Mexico and Central American countries, primarily Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador. The various Central American gangs and other regional groups are involved in migrant smuggling, human trafficking, drug smuggling, and the trafficking of firearms. Due to escalating Mexican law enforcement attention against transnational criminal organizations in that country, Central American drug flow has increased dramatically in the last decade. The resulting displacement of criminal activity and attendant violence from Mexico to other countries in this zone underscores the need for coordinated regional strategies to address transnational criminal activities, so that one country’s success does not negatively impact another’s. Also, the Caribbean, Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic cannot be ignored as points of concern for similar reasons.

The retail zone comprises the U.S. and Canada. The U.S. provides the largest drug consumption market in the western hemisphere while Canada serves two roles—as both a destination and transit country for illicit activities including drug smuggling and global alien smuggling.

To combat the activities of Mexican, Central American, and South American transnational criminal organizations—including illicit finance and money laundering activities and the flow of illegal drugs—the FBI works side-by-side with its numerous domestic and international partners to infiltrate, disrupt, and dismantle these groups by targeting their leadership and using sensitive investigative and intelligence techniques in long-term, proactive investigations.