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US: Around Duluth, small-town cops face tough foe in Mexican cartels -

Found: Tue Oct 08 14:07:05 2019 PDT
Source: Minneapolis Star-Tribune (MN)
Copyright: 2019 Star Tribune
Webpage: [translate]
Author: Andy Mannix Star Tribune Staff, andy.mannix@startribune.

topical analysis

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Around Duluth, small-town cops face tough foe in Mexican cartels - Around Duluth, small-town cops face tough foe in Mexican cartels -

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Duluth 561640682

In Duluth-Superior, small-town cops face a formidable foe: Mexican cartels

It's a battle against heroin, meth and pills deluging the North Shore

By Andy Mannix Star Tribune staff

September 30, 2019 - 9:05am

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DULUTH - Carlos Coleman flaunted his success.

On social media, Coleman and his crew flashed wads of cash at nightclubs and drank pink champagne straight from the bottle. "We rich forever," he wrote under one Instagram photo.

At the time, they were making up to $5,000 a day flooding this Northern Minnesota region with high-grade heroin.

But they sensed it wouldn't last. One day in February 2018, Bernard Mims, one of Coleman's partners, tossed a quarter-pound of heroin out of a moving car, fearing the cops were following him.

They were.

Two weeks later, a Duluth police task force and federal agents raided the heroin operation, arresting Coleman, Mims and several others. It was a major bust, the culmination of nearly two years of surveilling suspects, tapping phones and buying heroin undercover with marked bills.

Alex Kormann - Star Tribune

Working a tip, Duluth police Sgt. Matt McShane searched a pickup truck Wednesday and found about a pound of crystal meth inside.

It wasn't enough to stop the flow of drugs reaching from across the continent into a world of well-connected drug dealers and desperate users just beyond the idylls of the North Shore.

Since 2013, the average number of opioid-related overdoses in the Duluth region has more than doubled.

Police seized a record 2,200 grams of heroin in Duluth and the Twin Ports region in the first half of 2019. That's nine times what they confiscated in all of 2012 - the year police began seeing a rise in drug-trafficking cases - according to Duluth police data. Methamphetamine seizures could also reach a record high in 2019, and prescription pill seizures are surging year after year.

"The word is out on the street - there is a large demand pool for opioids in this region," said Duluth police Lt. Jeff Kazel. "They can come here and sell it for two to three to four times the amount they can sell it in other places."

Kazel runs the team of investigators in charge of interrupting the drug pipeline, a unit based out of Duluth police headquarters called the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force.

This month, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced it will permanently post two agents in Duluth to embed with his team. The White House office of National Drug Control Policy also added St. Louis County to its national list of High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas in September, a designation that will funnel federal money to the Duluth region for drug treatment and outreach.

Some in the community are skeptical of adding more enforcement, fearing it will lead to the same outcome as the crack cocaine wave of the 1990s. "Is it going to be a pathway for another generation of mass incarceration?" asked Daniel Lew, chief public defender for northeastern Minnesota.

Law enforcement and prosecutors say that's not the goal. The mission, they contend, is to disrupt the mid- to high-level trafficking that's killing communities.

"We can't just treat this as a war on drugs," said Minnesota U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald.

A long time coming

Duluth has faced waves of drugs before, but never of this scale. When Kazel first joined the narcotics unit in 2001, meth was the epidemic of the moment, most coming from amateur cooks in clandestine home labs, lacking the purity or scale of today's product.

In the past decade, opioids have emerged as the biggest concern. In 2010, a powerful opioid painkiller called Opana flooded the market, selling for up to $100 per pill.

Those addicted to prescription drugs staged burglaries and reported only their pills missing in order to get refills from their doctors, said Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken, until officers stopped giving out case numbers to the alleged victims.

In 2013, police arrested a man named Courtney Williams moving heroin from Chicago's West Side to the Twin Ports. When they pulled Williams over, they found nearly 500 grams - roughly $100,000 worth - of heroin bound for Duluth hidden inside his spare tire.

That year, police seized five times more heroin than the year before in the Twin Ports.

Police had little question about where the heroin was coming from. It was "caballo" - brown heroin. The bricks of powder still bore the stamp of the Mexican cartels.

Alex Kormann - Star Tribune

Needles and lighters lay next to a vehicle suspected of carrying drugs; officers found a few grams of heroin inside.

Supply and demand

Kazel was chosen to lead the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force the year after the Williams case. By this time, the reality had set in: They faced new and formidable foes in both cartels looking to expand their territory and doctors prescribing drugs without fully understanding, or caring about, the consequences.

"People were dying," Kazel said. "We've never seen this amount of overdoses or death - ever."

A former Army sergeant who kept the crew cut, Kazel joined Duluth police in 1997 after a ride-along with a cop friend from high school. "It appealed to me that you were out there helping people," he said. After working narcotics, he was promoted and worked in administrative and leadership roles.

When Kazel returned to drugs as the task force commander, Minnesota was locked in the jaws of a new epidemic. Last year, the state saw record highs in drug seizures, treatment admissions and overdose deaths related to meth, according to state data. Police seized 24 pounds of heroin last year, twice as much as 2014, and 16,000 opioid pills. Cocaine also made a comeback, in part due to increased production of coca plants in South and Central America, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

The epidemic hit Twin Ports hard. Tusken attributes it to doctors overprescribing pills. By the time anyone realized the devastating toll, too many were hooked. Those who couldn't find pills turned to meth or heroin.

To stem the last meth wave, the Minnesota Legislature passed new laws that put key ingredients, such as pseudoephedrine, behind the counter, all but eliminating the home meth labs. But that addressed only the supply. The customers never went away, and the cartels moved in.

Reducing demand

On a gloomy Tuesday afternoon, Jessica Nickila and her police escort ride through the hilly streets of downtown Duluth to St. Luke's Hospital. This is Nickila's second time coming here today, hoping to persuade a woman who recently overdosed to sign up for treatment.

"I was thinking about waiting until tomorrow," says Nickila, "but I'm afraid she might be gone."

Kazel hired Nickila in January to help reduce the demand for drugs in the area. With tarot posters on the walls of her office and tattoos on both forearms, she is a study in contrast from Kazel. An aspiring writer who became addicted to heroin and then got sober before she was old enough to legally drink, Nickila never dreamed she'd work for the police one day. "Hell, no," she said, "not in a million years."

She applied because "folks with opioid-use disorder are some of the coolest people you'd ever meet." It also meant helping people like herself.

Over the past 10 months, Nickila has steered 50 people to supportive services and 35 to inpatient care, according to data tracked by her office.

Most of the people she meets are homeless, so helping them get clean means helping them find housing, employment, mental health treatment. She's there when they schedule appointments and sometimes gives them rides.

Nickila has found most success in catching patients within a couple of days of an overdose. Every Tuesday, she drives around with her escort, knocking on doors, visiting hospitals.

Today's trip is a success, she later reports. The woman agreed to a treatment plan and showed a positive attitude toward getting clean.

"Super sweet lady," Nickila said.

Help is on the way

After being appointed Minnesota's U.S. attorney last year, the first road trip MacDonald took was to Duluth to meet with Kazel, Tusken and other law enforcement leaders in the Twin Ports to talk about the drug influx and overdose rates.

"We knew then we had a problem to tackle," she said.

MacDonald believes the solution is to bolster resources in northern Minnesota, rather than rely on regional offices to work the drug cases.

After the raid on Coleman's operation last year, police saw a brief lull in heroin on the streets. But this year, they surged once again. In June, police busted an operation that pulled about a million dollars' worth of the drug off the street, the biggest ever in the area.

Yet even with the added resources, Tusken says it's a daunting job, ridding a scourge that's so deeply embedded in the community.

"It's been a long time coming," he said. "And it's going to take us a long time to clean up the mess."

Correction: An earlier version incorrectly identified which agency added St. Louis County to its national list of High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas.

Andy Mannix covers federal courts and law enforcement for the Star Tribune. He joined the paper in January 2016 and previously covered Minneapolis City Hall and statewide criminal justice/Department of Corrections. 612-673-4036 AndrewMannix

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analysis of article text

prohibitionist hits:0 government drug warrior (prohibition_agency) hits:32 propaganda (drugwar_propaganda) hits:51 legalization hits:0 drug_reformer hits:0 reform_referenda hits:0 cannabis hits:0 stimulant hits:14 narcotic hits:25 hallucinogen hits:0
    prohibitionist     prohibition_agency     drugwar_propaganda     legalization     drug_reformer
    reform_referenda     cannabis     stimulant     narcotic     hallucinogen

incarceration/prison mentioned? yes .

propaganda analysis

explicit prohibition propaganda (explicit_propaganda) hits:0 hated group (propaganda_theme1) hits:10 madness, violence, illness (propaganda_theme2) hits:24 survival of society (propaganda_theme3) hits:6 gateway, use is abuse (propaganda_theme4) hits:2 children (propaganda_theme5) hits:1 demonize, war, epidemic (propaganda_theme6) hits:6 total prohibition (propaganda_theme7) hits:1 dissent opposed (propaganda_theme8) hits:1
EXP - explicit prohibition propaganda (explicit_propaganda) GRP - hated group (propaganda_theme1) MAD - madness, violence, illness (propaganda_theme2)
SOC - survival of society (propaganda_theme3) USE - gateway, use is abuse (propaganda_theme4) KID - children (propaganda_theme5)
WAR - demonize, war, epidemic (propaganda_theme6) TOT - total prohibition (propaganda_theme7) DIS - dissent opposed (propaganda_theme8)

 drug of abuse implied / mentioned

drug related
[news] [concept]

prohibition agency illegal drugs  
drugwar_propaganda : a drug war propaganda event, campaign release, slogan, or themepropaganda

drugwar propaganda
[news] [concept]

propaganda theme1 propaganda theme2 propaganda theme3 propaganda theme5 propaganda theme6 propaganda theme7 propaganda theme4 propaganda theme8 Why Are Americans So Easy to Manipulate? (Bruce E Levine, 2012)
Classic Modern Drug Propaganda
Themes in Chemical Prohibition
Drug War Propaganda (kindle edition)
propaganda_theme1 : drug war propaganda theme: hated groupshated group

propaganda theme1
[news] [concept]

"racial" "users" "drug dealers" "dealers" "cartels"10Hated Groups (propaganda theme 1)
America's Racist Drug laws
Labeling theory
Transfer (propaganda)
 addiction 60%
[news] [concept]
"addicted" "hooked"3Twelve-Step Snake Oil (2012)
Ceremonial Chemistry: The Ritual Persecution of Drugs, Addicts, and Pushers (Thomas Szasz)
Rat Park
Most People With Addiction Simply Grow Out of It: Why Is This Widely Denied? (2014)
propaganda_theme2 : drug war propaganda theme: madness, violence, illness caused by drugsmadness, violence, illness

propaganda theme2 70%
[news] [concept]

"Violent" "overdoses" "overdose" "overdosed" "Crime" "Crimes" "criminal" "injury" "threatens" "seizures" "death" "deaths" "problem" "fearing" addiction21Madness Crime Violence Illness (propaganda theme 2)
Distortion 18: Cannabis and Mental Illness
No, marijuana use doesn't lower your IQ (10/2014)
propaganda_theme3 : drug war propaganda theme: survival of societysurvival of society

propaganda theme3 60%
[news] [concept]

"American" "America" "community" "communities"6Survival of Society (propaganda theme 3)
The "Nation" as a Device To Create a Psychological Crowd

gateway 55%
[news] [concept]

"lead to" "pathway"2Use is Abuse, Gateway (propaganda theme 4)
Distortion 7: Gateway
propaganda_theme4 : drug war propaganda theme: all use is abuse, gatewaygateway, use is abuse

propaganda theme4 55%
[news] [concept]

gateway Use is Abuse, Gateway (propaganda theme 4)
propaganda_theme5 : drug war propaganda theme: children corrupted by drugschildren

propaganda theme5 70%
[news] [concept]

"Teen"1Children Corrupted (propaganda theme 5)
Think of the children
propaganda_theme6 : drug war propaganda theme: demonize; use of drugs is epidemic; wardemonize, war, epidemic

propaganda theme6 90%
[news] [concept]

"epidemic" "scourge" "war on drugs" "battle"6Demonize, War (propaganda theme 6)
List of Wars on Concepts
Perpetual war
The Failed War on Drugs (2012)
propaganda_theme7 : drug war propaganda theme: total prohibiton or accesstotal prohibition

propaganda theme7 50%
[news] [concept]

"purity"1Total Prohibition or Access (propaganda theme 7)
propaganda_theme8 : dissent opposed

propaganda theme8 55%
[news] [concept]

secret evidence Dissent Attacked (propaganda theme 8)
From Martin Luther King to Anonymous, governments target dissenters not just "bad guys" (2014)
 moral imperative
[news] [concept]
"We can't"1Majestic plural
Moral imperative
Categorical imperative
 drug of abuse

illegal drugs
[news] [concept]

narcotic various illegal drugs addiction stimulant  
 drugs 95%
[news] [concept]
various drugs  
 oft-mentioned government prohibitionist

govt prohib other 66%
[news] [concept]

"U.S. Attorney" "Police Chief"3A Drug War Carol, page 18
prohibition_agency : various drug prohibition and propaganda agencies and police; tax-supported entities dependent on continuing prohibitiongovernment drug warrior

prohibition agency
[news] [concept]

"police" "Law enforcement" "narcotics unit" "Drug Enforcement" "prosecutors" "Drug Enforcement Administration" "High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas" drug propaganda agency29Drug Enforcement Administration
The Top Five Special Interest Groups Lobbying To Keep Marijuana Illegal
 NSA/DEA/local PD - Spying and Lying Scandal

secret evidence 55%
[news] [concept]

"a tip"
Routine Traffic Stop? Anonymous Tip? - DEA Manual Coaches Government Prosecutors to Lie in Court to Evade Truth about NSA Tapping Domestic Phone Content, to Bust People for Pot (2014)
Justice Dept to Notify Defendants on Surveillance (2013)
DEA SOD (Special Operations Division)
Brady disclosure
Fruit of the poisonous tree
NSA Listening to Rumrunners During Prohibition I (2014)
All Your Communications in Eternal Dragnet, Searched for Keywords (2014)
How NSA, DEA and Your Local Police Illegally Collude to use Wiretap Content, to Bust You for Pot (2014)
Secret Police Search Engine for DEA/NSA/Local PD - Target: Your Real-Time Wiretap Transcripts (2014)
Secret Law (2016)
 government drug propaganda agency

drug propaganda agency
[news] [concept]

"office of National Drug Control Policy" "office of National Drug Control" "National Drug Control Policy"
 psychoactive chemical

[news] [concept]

cocaine heroin methamphetamine amphetamines opiate
 psychoactive plant

[news] [concept]

 psychoactive pharmaceutical

pharms 90%
[news] [concept]

 euphoric depressant
[news] [concept]
heroin opiate  
 euphoric stimulant
[news] [concept]
cocaine methamphetamine  
[news] [concept]
heroin oxymorphone opiate  
opioid : opiate-like but synthetic drugsopioid

[news] [concept]

"opioid-related" "opioids" "opioid" "opioid-use" oxymorphone6Managing Pain
[news] [concept]
cocaine amphetamines  
[news] [concept]
"Methamphetamine" "meth" "crystal meth" "crystal"
Amphetamines: The Swedish experience
[news] [concept]
"narcotics" opioid opiate2Managing Pain
opiate : a substance derived from the opium poppyopiate
[news] [concept]
heroin Managing Pain
amphetamines : various amphetaminesamphetamines
[news] [concept]
methamphetamine The amphetamines - Consumers Union Report
Officially Approved US Military Speed/Amphetamine Use
cocaine : cocaine; any formcocaine
[news] [concept]
[news] [concept]
"crack cocaine" "crack"
[news] [concept]
Managing Pain

[news] [concept]

"coca" "coca plants"

oxymorphone 90%
[news] [concept]

 various drugs 95%
[news] [concept]
"drugs" "drug" "drug-trafficking"30 
 various illegal drugs
[news] [concept]
"Drug Trafficking" "drug dealers" "war on drugs" "prescription drugs"
DEA's Drugs of Abuse booklet
[news] [concept]
"incarceration" prison data1Prison Hell in America (Stephen Lendman, Oct. 2011)
Understanding the U.S. Torture State
this is what a police state looks like
Torture and the United States and... drugs.htm
US Official Prison Policy: Encourage Men's Rape (2014)
Profit Driven Prison Industrial Complex (2012)
The Top Five Special Interest Groups Lobbying To Keep Marijuana Illegal
Sing a Little Louder
Prison Rape Widely Ignored by Authorities
Push Back Against Drug War Profiteering with Jury Nullification
 prison data
[news] [concept]
"mass incarceration" and...
Crime Down 45%, Incarceration Up 222% (2014)
U.S. Prisons Thriving on Jim Crow Marijuana Arrests (2013)
 youth 70%
[news] [concept]
propaganda theme5
[news] [concept]

st:0.02 fo:0 s:0 d:0 c:0 db:0.11 a:0.72 m:1.24 t:2.34 (f)

text of article used for CRITICAL ANALYSIS, under FAIR USE provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 107, et al.

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Bot's analysis of: "The Dangers and Consequences of Marijuana Abuse" the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Demand Reduction Section, May 2014
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    article tags


    school concept
    youth concept
    prison_data concept - incarceration, parole rates
    incarceration concept - Prisons, Jails and Probation
    various_illegal_drugs concept - general terms for illegal drugs
    various_drugs concept - general terms for drugs
    oxymorphone concept - oxymorphone (14-Hydroxydihydromorphinone) is a potent, semi-synthetic opioid
    coca concept - Erythroxylum coca is a high altitudes S. American shrub that's leaves are the source of cocaine. The leaves are "chewed" (held in the cheek) in combination with mineral lime to provide physical and mental stimulation and reduction in altitude sickness. It has a long history of human use. (Erythroxylaceae, Erythroxylum, coca; novagranatense)
    heroin concept - heroin, heroine, diamorphine
    crack concept - crack, or other cocaine freebase
    cocaine concept - cocaine; any form
    amphetamines concept - various amphetamines
    opiate concept - a substance derived from the opium poppy
    narcotic concept - a drug that dulls senses, relieves pain, induces sleep
    methamphetamine concept - methamphetamine
    stimulant concept - a substance that produces stimulation
    opioid concept - opiate-like but synthetic drugs
    analgesic concept
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    euphoric_depressant concept
    pharms concept - Psychoactive Pharmaceuticals are over-the-counter or prescription chemicals approved for human medicinal use, with mind- or emotion-altering properties
    plants concept - Plants listed in this section are those which have been used by humans for their mind- or emotion-altering properties.
    chemicals concept - Psychoactive Chemicals are chemicals which have mind- or emotion-altering properties.
    drug_propaganda_agency concept - governmental anti-drug propaganda agencies, offices
    secret_evidence concept - secret anti-drug (read: anti-pot) police trained to "recreate" -- lie about -- evidence in court, in order to hide wholesale NSA domestic spying on the people, and then lying about it; the laundering of espionage techniques -- listening to phone call content and net use -- to bust ordinary people in America for "drugs" -- pot --, under the guise of "fighting terror."
    prohibition_agency concept - various drug prohibition and propaganda agencies and police; tax-supported entities dependent on continuing prohibition
    govt_prohib_other concept - prohibitionist who gets (or has gotten in the past) a government paycheck or money to bolster prohibition, but mentioned in many non-drug-related articles, too
    drugs concept
    illegal_drugs concept - drugs of abuse, so-called
    moral_imperative concept
    propaganda_theme8 concept
    propaganda_theme7 concept - drug war propaganda theme: total prohibiton or access
    propaganda_theme6 concept - drug war propaganda theme: demonize; use of drugs is epidemic; war
    propaganda_theme5 concept - drug war propaganda theme: children corrupted by drugs
    propaganda_theme4 concept - drug war propaganda theme: all use is abuse, gateway
    gateway concept - drug war propaganda theme: gateway
    propaganda_theme3 concept - drug war propaganda theme: survival of society
    propaganda_theme2 concept - drug war propaganda theme: madness, violence, illness caused by drugs
    addiction concept - addition or drug dependency
    propaganda_theme1 concept - drug war propaganda theme: hated groups
    drugwar_propaganda concept - a drug war propaganda event, campaign release, slogan, or theme
    drug_related concept - related to illegal drugs and prohibition