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New Drug Tracking System Could Help DEA Get More Cocaine Busts

First Posted: Jun 19, 2014 02:46 PM EDT

The global network of drug trafficking is difficult for law enforcement to keep up with. Even the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has a tough time tracking down criminals, but that could soon change with a new cocaine tracking system.

Siddharth Chandra is an economist at Michigan State University. He has spent time researching and analyzing cocaine prices in 112 cities across the United States in order to identify any links between cities for drug transit. He found plentiful information studying data from 2002 to 2011 provided by the National Drug Intelligence Center of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Chandra created a map of possible drug routes on a city-to-city basis, analyzing prices for 6,126 pairs of cities. He discovered that the National Drug Intelligence Center hadn't considered a number of his routes when he compared his information with theirs. Cities in the north and northeast, as well as some in the south and along the West Coast are major hubs for cocaine he found.

"By identifying patterns and locations, drug policy and enforcement agencies could provide valuable assistance to federal, state and local governments in their decisions on where and how to allocate limited law enforcement resources to mitigate the cocaine problem," said Chandra in this Michigan State University Today article.

In his analysis, Chandra found that if two cities were connected, cocaine prices would move in accordance. For example, if a source city (where the drug originates) experiences a rise in their price for cocaine, that rise in price will also occur in the cities it is supplying. Additionally, prices of cocaine (or any other drug) tend to go up as they move from one city to another, as they typically flow from the city with the lower price to the city with the higher price.

Chandra's system offers a big picture strategy to track patterns of cocaine shipments as well as the primary destinations the drug is reaching. The Drug Enforcement Agency already utilizes GPS tracking technology, wiretapping, controlled cocaine purchases, and other operations to build cases and catch drug traffickers. But perhaps the federal government can save money by only employing this technology after applying a cost-effective and overarching strategy like Professor Chandra's.

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