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  1. Homeland Security Investigations
  2. What We Investigate
  3. Narcotics Smuggling

Narcotics Smuggling

Narcotics Smuggling

HSI tracks, intercepts, investigates, and halts the flow of illegal narcotics into our country. We safeguard the public from this threat and keeping drugs off our streets and away from our family and friends.

Drug overdoses have claimed more than a million lives since 1999, and accidental opioid overdose is the leading cause of death for people ages 18 to 45. Complex, sophisticated criminal networks are responsible for smuggling tremendous amounts of illegal narcotics into the United States.

HSI is committed to doing its part to shield the public from this threat. Our mission is clear: to protect our nation from the dangerous organizations that traffic death and despair.

We’re proud of HSI’s role in the fight against international narcotics smuggling. Our work has put some of the world’s most notorious cartel leaders and traffickers behind bars and led to some of the largest seizures of drugs across the globe.

The Impact of Narcotics Smuggling

Narcotics smuggling is a global crime with local impacts.

Illegal drugs — such as fentanyl and synthetic opioids, cocaine and methamphetamine — largely come from other countries. Cartels and other criminal organizations employ complex schemes to evade detection and smuggle these deadly drugs into the United States. From there, local networks distribute and sell drugs in our cities and on our streets. They end up in our communities and in our loved ones’ hands, often with devastating effects.

The criminals who commit these crimes do it for one reason: To make money. They don’t care about the people using and addicted to drugs; instead, they profit from their victims’ dependency. The millions of dollars drug smugglers rake in by selling illegal drugs enriches the transnational criminal organizations responsible that produce and smuggle them into our country. The proceeds also fund other crimes, like money laundering, weapons trafficking and corruption — all of which further endanger our nation and put us all at risk.

HSI's Response to Narcotics Smuggling

HSI tracks, intercepts, investigates and stops illegal narcotics from flowing into our country. We safeguard the public, keeping drugs off our streets and away from our families and friends. We approach this mission by:

  • Targeting criminal networks. HSI identifies, investigates and dismantles the organizations that smuggle drugs into the United States.
  • Strengthening global partnerships. HSI's global presence enables us to work with foreign partners to attack the crime at the source. By joining forces with partner nations, we amplify our impact and disrupt global drug smuggling pipelines and criminal networks.
  • Enhancing domestic collaboration. HSI works with federal, state, tribal and local partners across the United States through task forces to combat international drug trafficking organizations.
  • Embracing financial disruptions. By using technology and access to trade and financial data, HSI targets the financial lifelines of criminal drug smuggling organizations. Going after the money strikes the biggest blow to their illegal operations.

Targeting the Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic, fueled by the illicit spread of fentanyl and synthetic opioids, is at the forefront of our efforts. While we’ve succeeded in seizing thousands of pounds of opioids and fentanyl, the fight is far from over. We remain committed and resolved to protecting our communities from this threat.

Our approach is multifaceted and starts abroad, where we work with foreign law enforcement agencies. Together, we target the international flow of fentanyl and its precursors; we track down labs and identify smuggling routes. We also work with our partners in the United States to investigate smuggling at the border and in the nation’s interior. On the cyber front, we target and investigate the sale and smuggling of fentanyl and other opioids on the darknet, leading to significant arrests and seizures.

To learn more about our efforts to address the opioid epidemic, read HSI's Strategy for Combatting Illicit Opioids.

The Path Forward

As we continue to confront this unprecedented threat, HSI remains dedicated to its mission of safeguarding the public from the criminals responsible for putting these harmful narcotics on our streets. By maintaining a proactive and collaborative approach, HSI is leading the way toward a safer tomorrow.

To report suspicious criminal activity, call the HSI Tip Line at 1-877-4-HSI-TIP.

Last Updated: 04/22/2024
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