Cocaine Prices Rise in Many Areas Following Colombian Crackdown
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Cocaine prices went up in parts of the United States as Colombia cracked down on drug traffickers, but it’s too soon to predict whether recent U.S. seizures will force the cost up even further, law enforcement officials say.
Miami has shown the greatest price increase, going from $9,000 to $10,000 for a kilo of cocaine before the crackdown to $20,000 today, according to Metro-Dade Police Detective George Reyes.
Along the Mexican border in southern Texas, the price of a kilo recently jumped to $14,000 to $15,000 after remaining steady for about a year at $11,000 to $12,000, said Armando Ramirez, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s resident agent in charge of the Brownsville office.
In Los Angeles, Sgt. Tim Beard of the County Sheriff’s Office says cocaine prices range from $10,000 a kilo, for someone buying 10 kilos or more, to $15,000 for a novice buyer. At the same time, Steve Georges of the DEA in Los Angeles says the per-kilo price is $14,000 to $15,000, an increase of $1,000 to $2,000 from a year ago.
However, an informal survey by The Associated Press also showed that some regions actually experienced a decline in cocaine prices since Colombian President Virgilio Barco imposed emergency measures Aug. 18 to halt the violent drug traffickers in his country.
Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Cornelius Dougherty said it’s ″way too early″ to determine the effect of the late September seizure of about 20 tons of cocaine in Los Angeles, which he called a ″healthy bite″ out of the nation’s cocaine supply.
The impact of two other major recent seizures - nine tons from a house in Texas and six tons from a ship in the Gulf of Mexico - also probably won’t be felt immediately, officials said.
In the cities that experienced price increases, officials said it wasn’t clear whether there were real shortages of cocaine or the dealers there were just taking advantage of the uncertainty.
″We have a lot of entrepreneurs out there that will capitalize on anything in their business,″ said John Fernandes of the DEA in Miami.
Ramirez attributed the price increase in southern Texas to Colombia’s actions and President Bush’s announcement of a drug strategy intended to boost law enforcement and build new prisons for drug offenders.
″It’s like the stock market,″ Ramirez said. ″People are scared and they’re going to charge more to do business.″
″The dealers are smart,″ said narcotics bureau Sgt. Steve Prator in Shreveport, La., where he said kilo prices range from $50,000 to almost $70,000. ″They listen to the news. Whether or not it’s costing them any more, they’re still going to raise the price of cocaine.″
In Dallas, the kilo price has remained steady at $16,000 to $18,000, according to Capt. Eddie Walt of the police department’s narcotics division.
In Denver, the price of a kilo has stayed at $18,000 to $24,000 for more than a year and in Kansas City, Mo., the average price remains about $20,000.
″There’s always some fluctuation - it’s not like buying a refrigerator from Sears - but the Colombian thing hasn’t had an effect yet here,″ said Kansas City Police Capt. Bill Massock.
Some price changes have been seen on the street as well as at the wholesale level.
In Miami, the street price for a gram of cocaine has risen from $40 in August to $55 to $60, compared with a cost of $35 to $40 a year ago, Reyes said.
In Chicago, Raymond Risley, commander of the police department’s narcotics section, said the price of a gram dropped steadily from $100 a year ago to about $70 until the beginning of September, due to wide availability.
″We are now noting a slight trend toward increases,″ Risley said. ″There’s a very good likelihood that that change occurred because of what’s going on in Colombia right now.″
But elsewhere, the price of cocaine has actually decreased in the past month or so, with Seattle officials saying the price of a gram dropped from $80 to $100 in early August to $60 to $80 today. Officials in Spokane, Wash., say it has dropped from $100 to $85 during the same time span.