Like any business model, the business of crime evolves according to the needs of its customers and government sanctions, as this story from the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
“In many ways, the reputed drug dealers on Grandview Place were good neighbors.
“Their two-story, red-brick home in the New York City suburb of Fort Lee, N.J., looked perfectly ordinary with its white trim, gable porch and manicured shrubbery. Neither noise nor sketchy visitors were an issue, authorities say.
“The only sign that something was amiss was the rented van that would disappear into a lower-level garage each day. The driver's job: To deliver immigrant workers from the inner city to package heroin in thousands-upon-thousands of glassine envelopes stamped with catchy logos like "LeBron James" and "Roger Dat."
“The Fort Lee operation represented the new, more serene face of the ever-thriving heroin trade in the New York City area, the drug's national epicenter, according to the Manhattan-based narcotics investigators who shut it down.
"It can still be a violent, dirty business, but it's changed," said Bill Cook, a longtime investigator with the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for New York City.
“Absent are scenes out of films like "American Gangster," with kingpins flaunting their wealth, settling turf wars with brazen gunplay and serving a clientele of strung-out junkies queuing up to buy low-grade product.
“The new business model calls for more discretion and discipline, and better branding and quality control. The heroin is purer and the users more mainstream, including college students and professionals who snort rather than shoot up. Many have seamlessly transitioned to heroin after first getting hooked on prescription painkillers belonging to the same opiate family.
“Compared to past eras marked by images of junkies cooking the drug with a dirty spoon, heroin "doesn't have the same stigma attached to it," said John Gilbride, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration's New York office.
“Authorities say more abuse by a broader customer base has taken a devastating human toll that's difficult to measure. Rehab centers have told them that more people are seeking treatment, and there have been recent reports of fatal heroin overdoses by teenagers on Long Island and Westchester County.
“That hasn't discouraged retailers - mainly Dominican immigrants supplied with Colombian heroin by Mexican cartels - from steadily expanding their operations throughout the city and its suburbs.
"There are more mills, and they're better at what they do," Cook said.”