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Urban Police - Narcotics Enforcement

drug crime effects related

Samuel Walker has suggested that the drug problem in the United States is both directly and indirectly responsible for "the dramatic rise in the murder rate in the 1980s, gang violence, the soaring prison population, the worsening crisis in race relations, and the steady erosion of individual rights in the Supreme Court" (1998, p. 243). While drug use has declined since the late 1970s, it has significantly increased among members of the underclass. As the political climate changed in the 1980s, a "war on drugs" was declared. Enforcement of drug-related offenses increased dramatically, as did the severity of the sentences for these crimes. Critics of these policies have suggested that "racial minorities are the primary victims of the war on drugs" (1998, p. 249). Although African Americans made up only 12 percent of the U.S. population and 13 percent of monthly drug users in 1993, they accounted for 35 percent of drug arrests and 74 percent of prison sentences for drug convictions (Mauer and Huling).

According to David Bayley, there are six major strategies to control the use of illegal drugs in the United States; however, urban police departments focus primarily on two: suppressing the sale of drugs between suppliers and consumers and educating people about the perils of illegal drug use. Numerous tactics have been used to advance these strategies, although most have not been effective (Walker, 1998). The most common police strategy is a crackdown, where additional manpower and resources are used for aggressive enforcement in targeted areas. Most crackdown efforts reduce crime in the short term; however, they do not have lasting long-term effects. Crackdowns also pose the risk of displacement effects, where criminal activity is simply moved to another location not targeted by police, or replacement effects, where dealers who are arrested are immediately replaced with other dealers. Furthermore, research on the impact of DARE, the best known and most widely used police education tactic, has consistently shown that it does not reduce later drug use (Emmett et al.).

Recent studies of police drug enforcement tactics utilizing the techniques of problem-oriented policing have shown more positive results (Goldstein). Studies of the SMART (Specialized Multi-Agency Response Team) program in Oakland, California, have shown a reduction in drug-related crime without any evidence of displacement effects (Greene). Likewise, an evaluation of the Drug Market Analysis (DMA) program in Jersey City, New Jersey, found strong effects on the number of disorder-related calls for service and little evidence of a displacement effect (Weisburd and Green). Perhaps these types of police strategies are more effective than traditional crackdowns because they "take a more specific approach to crime and disorder" while also targeting "specific problems or places." Weisburd and Green conclude that although their study "does not directly test problem-oriented policing, it provides evidence that tailor-made responses to problems are essential if police are to deal more effectively with crime and crime-related problems" (p. 732).

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