Increasingly sophisticated and aggressive Mexican drug cartels are expanding in Southeastern Pennsylvania, flooding the market with high-grade cocaine at low prices, Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. told state legislators yesterday.
Montgomery County's Narcotics Enforcement Team has seized 2,400 pounds of marijuana and 313 pounds of cocaine from Mexican-based drug organizations since 2004, said Castor, who showed legislators a cache of semiautomatic weapons, bags of cocaine and marijuana, and several talismans used by drug dealers for good luck when transporting drugs.
The cartels have "flooded the Norristown market with the highest-quality and lowest-priced cocaine ever found available in the area," Castor said.
He appeared before the Policy Committee of the House Republicans, an arm of the GOP caucus that develops policy proposals.
Castor did not say what proportion of the area's drug trade was controlled by the newcomers. The area drug trade has been dominated by area residents, according to Lt. Kevin McKeon, chief of investigations with the Norristown police.
In addition, 17 illegal Mexican nationals have been arrested since 2004 in connection with the drug trade, among a Mexican population that previously had been known only as victims of street crime.
A spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in Philadelphia said there has been no region-wide spike in the involvement of illegal immigrants in the drug trade.
Castor said he wanted all those who buy prepaid cell phones to provide a photo I.D., home address and Social Security number, so investigators could better trace calls. State Rep. Jay Moyer (R., Montgomery) said he was working on a such a bill, but expected "push-back" from the cell phone industry.
A spokesman for the national cell phone trade association said the industry was not convinced that such legislation would effectively deter criminals. "I wouldn't say we are outright opposed to it, but we do have questions about how it would work in practice," said Joseph Farren, public affairs director for CTIA - The Wireless Association in Washington, D.C.
Castor also wants the state legislature to authorize state and local law enforcement officers to be cross-trained by federal authorities and allowed to make immigration arrests.