Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2018, $341,883)
The proposed mixed method study explores illegal marijuana markets and violent crime from the perspective of a Southwest Border jurisdiction, where high-potency marijuana products from indoor hydroponic cultivation and dispensaries is increasingly trafficked compared to Mexican marijuana, and law enforcement need actionable data-driven research to conduct targeted interdiction and develop evidence-based intelligence to examine growing rates of violent crimes.
It examines marijuana trafficking tactics through the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to fulfill online marketplace orders using cryptocurrency, and the anonymous encrypted TOR network or Dark Web to sell drugs. The project is a research partnership with the Tarrant County Sheriffs Office, and the Tarrant County Combined Narcotics Enforcement Task Force; this includes five small and medium suburban police departments, one large police department and countys district attorney office in North Texas. Research questions include: what are the trends in illegal marijuana sources, suppliers, transport, buyers, etc.; how has state-approved marijuana in other proximate states affected the illegal marijuana market; is there a relationship between illegal marijuana and violent crime; and what role does the dark web play in facilitating the illegal marijuana market in North Texas and beyond?
The comprehensive research methods include collection and analysis of: extant law enforcement and USPS data for incident-based, hot-spot and zip-code level market analyses; information on use of the dark web to track unseen market dynamics; and the collection of contextual information about the nature and extent of the market from in-depth interviews with postal inspectors and others. A jail survey of over 300 inmates each in six waves will collect information on demographics, criminal history, marijuana involvement, local marijuana markets and other marijuana sources, social networks, and use of the dark web. Study results will be used to develop: evidenced based investigative techniques to intercept drug-containing parcels (e.g. a suspicious package profile that allows selective examination of marijuana shipments); digital methods to identify online bulk purchases for redistribution; and spatial analysis to identify communities/ neighborhoods/city blocks where drug users are more likely to reside and ship drug parcels.
"Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law," and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14).