Mexican drug cartels have pushed heroin sales beyond major U.S. cities into suburban and rural byways, some of which had seen little heroin before, reports the New York Times. In Ohio, heroin-related deaths spread into 18 new counties from 2004 to 2007. Their numbers rose to 546 in that period, from 376 for 2000 to 2003. Federal officials consider the cartels the greatest organized crime threat to the United States.
Officials say the groups are taking over heroin distribution from Colombians and Dominicans and making new inroads across the U.S., pushing a powerful form of heroin grown and processed in Mexico known as “black tar” for its dark color and sticky texture. Cartel operations often piggyback on a growing and struggling Mexican immigrant population. Beginning a series of articles, the Times tells the story of an Ohio case to illustrate how the cartels work.