About the Data
Data Sources and Coverage
The information on this Web site about the federal enforcement of the criminal laws by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Justice Department prosecutors comes from many sources. This is a guide to the major agency data sources that were used. It is organized by Web site area.
  • DEA at Work
    This area draws upon a wide scope of information sources, including background information about the agency, its history and evolving responsibilities, as well as its activities. Key sources of information were DEA agency reports, congressional hearings, GAO reports, budget documents, federal court records, and interviews.

    Additional information is drawn from a book by TRAC's co-director, David Burnham, Above the Law: Secret Deals, Political Fixes and Other Misadventures of the U.S. Department of Justice,  Scribner [New York, 1996]. Other prior scholarly work on the agency was also examined. Specific figures reported are also drawn from other areas on this site, sources for which are discussed below.

  • National Profile and Enforcement Trends Over Time
    Historical staffing information about the DEA was obtained from the Office of Personnel Management. The primary source for criminal enforcement figures is the federal prosecutor database compiled by TRAC from U.S. Justice Department case management data systems. Reports by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy were also used to track budget allocations for DEA investigative activities. Context concerning federal drug enforcement more generally also relied upon reports from the Administrative Office of the U. S. Courts and the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

  • District Enforcement Annual Layers
    The primary source for these figures is the federal prosecutor database compiled by TRAC from U.S. Justice Department case management data systems. DEA internal sources were not used. Inquiries to the agency to review TRAC's findings were declined by the DEA.

    Coverage includes all referrals recommending criminal prosecution recorded as received by federal prosecutors where the DEA is recorded by Justice as the lead investigative agency. All criminal enforcement figures are based upon number of individuals (defendants or potential defendants) involved -- rather than number of cases. A single referral or case filed in court may involve more than one individual. Each defendant involved is separately counted in these figures.

    Population figures used in computing per capita rates and ranks are county level annual estimates from the United States Census Bureau.

    DEA staff figures are based upon the number of individuals on the payroll at the end of the fiscal year by post-of-duty and were compiled by TRAC from Office of Personnel Management sources. Unless otherwise noted, the figures include only fulltime staff in each occupational series.

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