Assessing the impact of drug law enforcement activities in one London borough

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1 Assessing the impact of drug law enforcement activities in one London borough Tim McSweeney Senior Research Fellow Institute for Criminal Policy Research Birkbeck, University of London 6 th ISSDP Conference Wednesday 30 th May 2012

2 Background Between 2005 and 2009 one London borough (Area A) saw recorded rates of serious acquisitive crime (SAC) (offences such as burglary, robbery and theft of and from motor vehicles) fall by around a third, bucking the trend for the capital as a whole during this period. At a local level senior Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) personnel attributed this reduction to their drug law enforcement (DLE) activities targeting street and middle - level dealers. Sought an independent study to test this assumption. 6 th ISSDP Conference Wednesday 30 th May 2012

3 Aims of the research Describe the nature and extent of known offending among those identified via DLE activities locally, and establish any changes in the prevalence and frequency of this known offending. Document the nature and extent of the known SAC offending of these groups, and any changes in the prevalence and frequency of this SAC offending. Identify those factors which were most predictive of a reduction in known offending among suspected drug offenders arrested in Area A. 6 th ISSDP Conference Wednesday 30 th May 2012

4 Methods (1) The research involved the linkage and analyses of various administrative datasets, including information derived from the following five sources: NPSIS Custody System; drug test recorder (DTR); drug interventions record (DIR); Ministry of Justice held extract of the Police National Computer (PNC); and recorded crime statistics. 6 th ISSDP Conference Wednesday 30 th May 2012

5 Methods (2) Data sources (i to iv) were used to assemble the following three cohorts: those suspects arrested for dealing offences in Area A between January 2007 and December 2009 (the experimental group) (N=1,163); all other Misuse of Drugs Act offence arrestees in Area A during this period (comparison group 1) (N=2,097); and Class A (heroin and/or cocaine) drug suspects arrested between 1st January 2007 and 31st March 2009 in two neighbouring London boroughs (Areas B and C) and matched to the PNC (comparison group 2) (N=1,465). 6 th ISSDP Conference Wednesday 30 th May 2012

6 Results: Criminal histories - general 10% (n=481) were responsible for half of all the proven offences (n=22,946) committed.

7 Results: Criminal histories - SAC SAC offences committed by Area A suspects (between ) (n=1,583) were equivalent to 2% of the 82,000 such offences recorded in the borough over this period.

8 Results: Rate of conviction

9 Results: Proven offences pre and post One-third (35.6%; n=1,683) of the suspects arrested across the three sites had no proven offences recorded on the PNC for the 12 months preceding and following the index arrest.

10 Results: Factors predictive of recidivism

11 Limitations No qualitative information on how local policing priorities, styles and practices shaped the implementation and delivery of DLE activities in Area A, or how individual suspects were targeted. Offending that comes to official attention (and recorded on the PNC) clearly represents only a small proportion of all offending. Future studies would benefit from: access to reliable data on the impact of drug treatment (e.g. via NDTMS/DDW) and routinely collated indicators on how changes to price and purity of heroin and/or cocaine affects levels of crime, including SAC.

12 Conclusions Evidence to support the contention that DLE activities targeting dealers in Area A contributed directly towards reducing rates of both SAC and general crime is limited. Casts doubt on the extent to which those involved in (suspected) selling and misusing illicit drugs were the principal drivers of known SAC offending in the three London boroughs considered. Better targeting of resources at most criminally involved (and thus most harmful) within a given local drug market may generate the greatest crime reduction return on this investment. Must be sensitive to the risks and consequences of over-policing certain groups or individuals & part of a balanced local strategy.

13 Acknowledgements MPS and London CSP for funding the study Various data custodians ISSDP conference organisers Thank you 6 th ISSDP Conference Wednesday 30 th May 2012

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