Crime Prevention Studies, Volume 11

Illegal Drug Markets: From Research to Prevention Policy

Crime Prevention Studies, Volume 11

Edited by Mangai Natarajan and Mike Hough

Buy this volume from Lynne Rienner Publishers


Crack Distribution and Abuse In New York
by Bruce D . Johnson, Eloise Dunlap, and Sylvie C. Tourigny

A major ethnographic project, conducted from 1989-1997, greatly improved the scientific understanding of crack and illicit drug distribution and markets in New York City. Staff developed procedures and outreach methodologies to access and safely conduct research among active sellers, dealers, and low-level distributors of crack, cocaine, and heroin. Nearly 300 subjects were studied on different occasions.

The crack distribution business involved specific roles classified into four major groups: low-level distributors, sellers, dealers, and high-level distributors. Role proliferation helped evade police and the most serious penalties, as well as to protect sellers from competitors. The relative effectiveness of police tactics in "gaining control" of the streets in the mid-1990s, had modest impacts on the crack and drug markets. Prices of retail and wholesale units of crack and cocaine remained relatively stable for a dozen years. Inner-city youths born in the 1970s (and reaching young adulthood in the 1990s) had avoided crack smoking and injection of heroin or cocaine. However, having been reared in severely distressed households, their social capital (e.g., their family and social backgrounds plus acquired skills) was very low as they reached adulthood in the 1990s. They had low probabilities of gaining steady legal employment or welfare payments during adulthood.

How Young Britons Obtain Their Drugs: Drugs Transactions at the Point of Consumption
by Howard Parker

The enormous expansion in recreational drug use (cannabis, amphetamines, LSD, ecstasy) amongst young Britons during the 1990s has had a normative effect whereby gender and social class differences are now negligible and consequently most young drug users are otherwise law abiding and conventional. Based on five contemporary studies of adolescents' drug use, nightclubbers and new young heroin users, this paper explains how while young "hard" drug users utilise "real" dealers, the vast majority of young drug users do not . Instead they rely on friendship and acquaintance chains and networks to "sort" each other out and thereby put physical and social distance between themselves and "real" dealers from criminal worlds. While de jure this means a significant minority of young Britons are drug suppliers, in practice few are apprehended because these transactions take place in their own semiprivate social space where they are largely condoned. Thus far these informal transactions at the point of consumption have kept the recreational- and heavy-end drugs arenas apart. However there are worrying signs that purposeful heroin distribution and marketing is penetrating recreational-drugs settings and recruiting a new generation of "susceptible" heroin users.

The Impact of Heroin Prescription on Heroin Markets in Switzerland
by Martin Kiillias and Marcelo F . Aebi

A program of heroin prescription was introduced in Switzerland in 1994. This initially targeted 1,000 heavily dependent heroin users, most of whom were also involved in drug dealing and other forms of crime. It has recently been extended to cover 3,000 users. Evaluation of its impact on users shows large reductions in use of illicit drugs and in drug-related crime. The evaluations were not designed to assess the program's impact on drug markets, but some data can shed light on this. It seems likely that users who were admitted to the program accounted for a substantial proportion of consumption of illicit heroin, and that removing them from the illicit market has damaged the market's viability. Before involvement in the program, a large proportion of users sold drugs to finance their own use, since the illicit drug market in Switzerland relies heavily on users for retail drug selling. It is likely, therefore, that the program additionally disrupted the function of the market by removing retail workers. The workers no longer sold drugs to existing users, and equally important, no longer recruited new users into the market. The heroin prescription market may thus have had a significant impact on heroin markets in Switzerland.

Women as Judicious Consumers of Drug Markets
by Sheigla Murphy and Farina Arroyo

Drawing on analyses of qualitative data gathered from National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) funded projects beginning in 1989 to April 1999, we examine the role of women as illegal drug consumers. Specifically, we depict how their attempts to manage, finances, drug procurement and use resulted in a dialectic of control. Inherent in many of the women's strategies to manage drug markets, as well as to control their own drug use and life circumstances were the sources of constraints on control. Exerting control in a changing marketplace required being an informed consumer. This, in turn, called for ongoing involvement in drug-using worlds to maintain up-to-date knowledge. Despite a male dominated underground marketplace where force, or potential retaliation, were the basis for settling disputes, women enacted strategies to increase their control. To maintain up-to-date knowledge concerning the people and places where drugs were sold, women had to be inundated in drug-using social worlds. Women who were good negotiators and communicators wielded more control in their dealings with drug sellers. Dealers settled conflicts through the use of threats or actual violence. A woman buyer was at a decided disadvantage due to her unequal ability to retaliate. Nonetheless, women employed tactics and strategies that minimized their risks and increased their control.

Toward the Development of a Typology of Illegal Drug Markets
by Ric Curtis and Travis Wendel

Ethnographic research is particularly well suited to investigate emergent phenomena and to access and describe populations and social environments which are obscured from normal observation. Ongoing ethnographic research on Manhattan s Lower East Side combines direct observation and qualitative interviews to describe the wide variety of local retail drug markets, the social contexts in which they evolve, and how the interactions between the various markets affect drug availability styles of distribution patterns of use and types of crime and violence associated with particular types of markets. By drawing a multifaceted sample, the study offers a moving picture of how trends in drug use and distribution emerge mature encounter difficulties and metamorphose. The research compares and contrasts distributors who participate in markets that are differentiated according to the social and technical organization of distribution. It also documents the differential and changing sociodemographic composition of consumer groups associated with the variety of illegal drug markets and describes transformations over time in the behaviors, beliefs, and norms of each category of users with regard to drug distribution and use.

"Hidden from Heroin's History": Heroin Use and Dealing within an English Asian Community - A Case Study
by Shakeel Akhtar and Nigel South

Heroin use and dealing within the English Asian community have received little research attention although involvement of Asian entrepreneurs in trafficking chains has been documented . This preliminary report arises from a qualitative case study of a locality in one South-Asian community in northwest England. The paper discusses methodological and background issues but primarily provides a picture of how a heroin distribution network developed. We focus on a key individual who sponsored dealing enterprises in an attempt to ensure they operated within terms and boundaries negotiated with him, rather than see them emerge as independent competitors. Friendships and kinship facilitated such sponsorship and negotiation. Subsequent suspicion, competition and conflict led to fragmentation of networks. The consequence of inter-personal conflict and break-down of trust was increased vulnerability to enforcement attention. The study also suggests there has been a "hidden history" of heroin use and dealing within, at least some, ethnic minority communities in England and that lack of recognition of this has implications for prevention and services.

Swedish Drug Markets and Drugs Policy
by Johannes Knutsson

This chapter offers an analysis of the consequences of the introduction of a Swedish drug policy in which police actively started targeting street markets in the beginning of the 1980s. The experience in Stockholm is used as an example, and two studies of the intervention against street markets have been examined. Additional survey information is used to consider possible long-range preventive effects of the changed policy.

Criminal Franchising: Albanians and Illicit Drugs in Italy
by Vincenzo Ruggiero

This paper considers how trafficking of marijuana from Albania to Italy interlocks with other forms of illicit trafficking. While Albanians have tended to occupy only marginal roles in other forms of illicit drug trafficking, they are centrally involved in the production, importation and distribution of marijuana. The paper identifies a number of probably unintended - benefits that this may bring. It has probably served to disentangle the marijuana market from the distribution of more harmful drugs of dependence such as heroin and cocaine. In providing a relatively cheap and plentiful supply of marijuana, it may have diverted Italian users from the more expensive heroin and cocaine. It may have provided a supply of jobs, although they are in the black economy. Thus against harm-reduction principles the near-monopoly held by Albanian traffickers has much to recommend it .The paper considers the implications of this for drug policy.

A Geographic Analysis of Illegal Drug Markets
by George Rengert, Sanjoy Chakravorty, Torn Bole, and Kristin Henderson

Past research has established two important geographic principles concerning the retail sales of illegal drugs: (1) illegal drug markets tend to be spatially concentrated, and (2) the location and marketing characteristics of these markets will vary depending on whether the customers are local or regional. The present research will build on these principles and determine whether the location of illegal drug markets in Wilmington, Delaware can be predicted using variables that measure the relative size of the local demand combined with variables that measure accessibility to regional customers. The data include arrest records from the Wilmington police department for the years 1989, 1990 and 1991 in order to be comparable with the 1990 census data.

Drug Trafficking as a Cottage Industry
by John E. Eck and Jeffrey S. Gersh

The structure of illicit drug markets is not well defined. This is particularly true of illicit markets that operate, at least in part, above the retail level. In this paper we contrast two hypotheses concerning how such markets are structured. The first posits an oligopolistic market composed of a relatively small set of large, hierarchically organized distribution networks. The second hypothesis posits a cottage industry of drug trafficking composed of many small groups of traffickers that form and break-up easily. Using data collected from federal, state and local drug investigators in the Washington-Baltimore area, we examine the behaviors of traffickers investigated in 1595, 1996 and 1997. These data suggest that the cottage-industry hypothesis is a better characterization of drug trafficking in the Washington-Baltimore area than the concentrated-industry hypothesis. We conclude by drawing some implications for the control of wholesale drug markets.

Understanding the Structure of a Drug Trafficking Organization: A Conversational Analysis
by Mangai Natarajan

Wiretap records and other prosecution materials were used to uncover the structure of a large drug trafficking organization in New York City. Using a variety of techniques, including network analysis, wiretap conversations were analyzed in detail to determine the roles and status of individuals in the organization. The analysis confirmed that the organization was of the "corporate" type, involving a large number of individuals, clear division of labor and a recognizable hierarchy. The field workers had few contacts with others in the organization. This fact means they would be unable to provide information about those at higher levels in the organization to law enforcement officers. The analysis also revealed that those running the organization placed a heavy reliance on telephone contacts. This reinforces the value of wiretap data, not just for law enforcement, but also for social scientists studying these organizations. The methods developed in the course of this research may, therefore, have more general value in studying the operations of large criminal organizations.

Performance Management, Indicators and Drug Enforcement: In the Crossfire or at the Crossroads?
by Nicholas Dorn

The climate of public accountability impinges upon managers of enforcement agencies as it does upon managers of all public agencies. This paper explores the prospects for meaningful Performance Indicators (PIs) in relation to drug enforcement. Against those cynical of the desirability or possibility of meaningful PIs in drug enforcement, the author argues that the effort is justified not only in the interests of the manageability and accountability of enforcement agencies but more broadly as an aspect of transparency in policy making and of the balancing of competing claims in a democratic society. Drawing particularly upon U.K. sources, the author illustrates the urgency of the demand for PIs, explores some political, conceptual and technical difficulties in their development, proposes a broad framework within which they may be conceptualised, and advocates a vigorous research engagement with these issues. Challenges include improving the interpretability of established measures such as drug seizures and arrests, evaluating new orthodoxies such as disruption, and developing measures of impacts o f interventions and policies in terms of market-related harms and enforcement-related harms. Practical issues include the development of independent, audit-type checks of those PIs that rely on an element of judgement by enforcement officers themselves. The author urges consideration of the merits of a move to multi-year reporting/accounting periods, in order toy (1) concentrate interpretative resources on larger and more robust data sets and, (2) reduce the presentational effort currently distracting senior enforcement managers, policy makers and indeed researchers from the focused and sustained work needed to improve interpretability.