Kansas City, Mo. Kansas City has become an important hub for U.S. drug trafficking because it's situated in the middle of the country and has major highways that can be used to easily transport drugs in all directions, a federal agency concluded.
Traffickers are bringing cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine from Mexico to the Midwest and are using Kansas City as a hub, the National Drug Intelligence Center states in its annual analysis of trafficking trends.
"Kansas City is a hub. It's like a trucking business. You have two of the biggest interstates in the country converging here," FBI drug investigator Mike Oyler told The Kansas City Star for a story published Monday.
The report, the National Drug Threat Assessment, uses the previous three years' worth of drug seizures and arrest data to identify areas of the country with high levels of drug activity. The 2011 report does not quantify the number of seizures in the Kansas City area, but its detailed maps portray drug activity in the Kansas City area as being as high as anywhere else in the U.S.
David Barton, who heads the Midwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which coordinates law enforcement anti-drug efforts for a six-state region that includes Missouri and Kansas, said the federal report illustrates a reality for those who transport both legal and illegal goods.
"It's geography," he said. "We're right in the middle of the country, and everything goes through here."
Barton said the threat assessment helps law enforcement identify trafficking patterns and devise strategies when those routes shift, and that this year's federal report reflects the greater commitment by law enforcement in recent years to gather and share trafficking data, which has been used to make major arrests.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Kansas City has indicted more than 100 people in several large drug conspiracy cases since January, and Barton said more are in the pipeline.
Among those was Rasheed Shakur, 43, who was sentenced to life in prison for his role in a multimillion-dollar drug smuggling ring that moved drugs of all types from the Southwest to Kansas City, using a number of transportation methods.
FBI agent Matthew Kenyon said Shakur, who described himself as the "Michael Corleone of Kansas City," paid a private pilot for four years to fly hundreds of pounds of marijuana and up to 15 pounds of cocaine each week from Texas into Johnson County Executive Airport.
When that pipeline dried up, Shakur found suppliers in Arizona and started mailing drugs to the addresses of friends and co-conspirators in Kansas City. When some packages didn't arrive, Shakur figured dishonest postal employees were stealing the drugs.
Instead, it was federal agents who were seizing them before delivery.
"There was a real sense of arrogance with him," Kenyon said. "He never thought we would get on to it."