Cocaine's Price Up 33% At Wholesale

Posted: October 12, 1989

A kilogram of cocaine is selling this week for about $24,000 wholesale in Philadelphia - a jump of about 33 percent from just a month ago, according to police.

Law enforcement officials say the price increase - which has spread across the country - apparently is the result of recent government seizures both in Colombia and the United States.

"There's a scarcity of cocaine," said Capt. Orville Ballard, commander of the Philadelphia police Narcotics Unit.

In early September, undercover narcotics officers in Philadelphia were routinely purchasing cocaine for about $17,500 to $18,000 a kilogram, Ballard said. This week, however, officers made two cocaine purchases at prices a third again as high, he said.

In one deal, the officers paid $24,000 a kilogram, and in the other - after a bit of haggling - they agreed to a rate of $23,000 a kilogram, Ballard said. That price was considered a bargain.

"We got it for $23,000 because we were buying multiple kilos," Ballard said. "We got a discount."

And when officers approached some drug dealers who have been under investigation for some time and could be counted on for a sale, this week they

went away empty-handed.

"They didn't have the cocaine to sell us," Ballard said.

But Ballard said the jump in wholesale prices probably would not affect the street prices - just the quality of cocaine being sold.

To make up the price difference, the dealers will simply use less cocaine in their product, officials said. That will usually mean more baking soda or other product used to "cut" the cocaine.

"The drugs won't be as pure," Ballard said. "The percentage of cocaine will be less. They'll use a lot of cut instead."

The kilograms, when broken down into 10,000 individual portions and sold on street corners, bring the dealer about $100,000, according to police. The cocaine is usually sold in $10 bags that contain 100 milligrams of cocaine and whatever else is mixed in, police said.

Some narcotics officials, however, remain unconvinced that the seizures have had any effect other than providing drug dealers an excuse to command higher wholesale prices.

"The trouble in Colombia, they're just using it to get more money," said Sgt. Mark Tustin of the Narcotics Unit's special investigations division. "We don't know whether there's a real shortage."

"They're sitting on the kilos," said another narcotics officer. "There's not a shortage - it's out there."

Cocaine has sold for as much as $45,000 a kilogram in past years in Philadelphia and has dropped to as low as $15,000 a kilogram, according to police officials.

Across the country, law enforcement officials have reported similar increases in cocaine prices after emergency measures were imposed by Colombian President Virgilio Barco to halt the violent drug traffickers in his country.

Also taking a large chunk out of the nation's drug supply have been recent cocaine seizures by federal authorities: 20 tons from a warehouse in Los Angeles, 9 tons from a house in Texas and 6 tons from a ship in the Gulf of Mexico.

In Miami, the price of cocaine jumped from about $10,000 a kilogram to $20,000 in recent weeks, according to law enforcement officials there.

Ballard said Philadelphia experienced a similar increase about a year ago

because of a "conspiracy" on the part of drug dealers in Colombia to raise prices by holding back on the supply for several weeks.

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