Report  |  Law enforcement

Illinois Drug Threat Assessment: A Survey of Police Chiefs and County Sheriffs

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A Survey of Police Chiefs and County Sheriffs

In April 2016, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority researchers administered an online survey to police chiefs and county sheriffs to better understand drug problems from an Illinois law enforcement perspective. Researchers sought to identify the greatest perceived drug threat and gather information on drug distribution, production/cultivation, transportation methods, availability, and demand with a focus on five substances: heroin, cocaine (crack and powder), methamphetamine, prescription drugs, and marijuana.

The Authority collaborated with the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police to help distribute the electronic survey to its police chief and county sheriff members. Authority researchers also conducted outreach by telephone to police chiefs and sheriffs in counties where drug arrests make up 67 percent or more of total arrests. A total of 83 local police chiefs (n=68) and county sheriffs (n=15) responded to the Illinois drug threat assessment survey. The sample represents agencies covering 35 percent of the total population in Illinois and made up 51 percent of the total drug arrests in Illinois in 2015.1

Top Drug Threats: Heroin, Prescription Drugs, and Methamphetamine

Overall, Illinois police chiefs and sheriffs most frequently identified heroin and prescription drugs as the greatest drug threats in their jurisdictions (see Figure). This observation is consistent with the 2016 National Drug Threat Assessment published by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), indicating heroin, in particular, as the greatest drug threat in 2015.2 The survey results were also consistent with an Authority survey of directors of 19 Illinois multi-jurisdictional, law enforcement, drug task forces.3 The directors reported marijuana (n=19), heroin (n=18), and prescription drugs (n=16) as most problematic with regard to use and distribution.4 Respondents to the Illinois drug threat assessment also reported an increase in the distribution and transport of heroin, prescription drugs, and marijuana. Marijuana, heroin, and prescription drugs were reported as highly available, and this corresponded with respondents reports that demand for heroin, marijuana, and prescription drugs also increased. Heroin, prescription drugs, and methamphetamine were also identified as the greatest contributors to violent crime.

Figure 1

Source: ICJIA Illinois Drug Threat Assessment, 2016

In the central and southern regions, methamphetamine was also identified as the greatest drug threat. Southern region respondents identified a significant increase in the distribution and transport of methamphetamine in their jurisdictions. Though reported production of methamphetamine from small and large operations tended to be low throughout the state, respondents in the central region reported high production amounts coming from small methamphetamine operations and those serving communities in the southern region reported a moderate production of methamphetamine by both small operations and large operations. The survey responses reflect arrests in Illinois for violations of the Methamphetamine Control and Community Protection Act. Eighty-six percent of the total methamphetamine arrests come from the central and southern regions of Illinois.5 This article is a summary of key findings of the full report.


  1. Population and drug arrest data derived from 2015 UCR and CHRI data.
  2. Drug Enforcement Administration. (2016). National drug threat assessment summary 2016. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from https://goo.gl/PoSLjH
  3. Reichert, J., Sacomani, R., Medina, E., DeSalvo, M., & Adams, S. (2016). Drug trends and distribution in Illinois: A survey of drug task forces. Chicago, IL: Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.
  4. Reichert, J., Sacomani, R., Medina, E., DeSalvo, M., & Adams, S. (2016). Drug trends and distribution in Illinois: A survey of drug task forces. Chicago, IL: Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.
  5. Data source: ICJIA analysis of CHRI data.

Illinois drug threat assessment: A survey of police chiefs and county sheriffs