chapter  9
24 Pages

Applications I: Eliminating overt drug markets: The “High Point” strategy

How might deterrence strategies built around these ideas look in practice? In this and the following chapter, we will look at two examples, the first concrete and the second speculative. Both are aimed at core public safety problems that have proved stubbornly resistant to traditional deterrence, enforcement, and prevention approaches. The first, the subject of this chapter, was designed to address community

drug markets. Drug markets are extraordinarily toxic to communities. Street sales and drug houses create crime hot spots; take over public spaces like sidewalks, parks, and stores; attract drive-through buyers and prostitutes; drive residents out and attract transients; drive out businesses and reduce the value of housing and commercial buildings; ease entry into criminality for young people; and facilitate drug use and addiction and the personal, family, and community harms they engender. Routine drug enforcement also creates serious community harms. Overt

markets are located almost entirely in poor minority neighborhoods, housing projects, and the like. In these neighborhoods, persistent drug enforcement frequently leads to very high levels of arrest, conviction, probation, incarceration, and parole for, especially, younger men. In some neighborhoods substantial majorities of younger men end up with criminal records and histories of incarceration or court supervision. Their criminal records inhibit them from finishing school and pursuing further education and cut them off from legitimate work and career advancement. High rates of arrest and incarceration can foster an informal street culture is which drug-dealing, arrest, and prison come to be viewed as routine, status-enhancing, and even a marker of adulthood. The routine use of intrusive enforcement measures, such as street stops, vehicle stops, and search warrants, often means that even law-abiding residents have hostile encounters with police. Perhaps worse, powerful “narratives”—accounts of and explanations for

what is going on-are developed by the affected communities, by law enforcement, and by drug dealers themselves. A dominant community narrative embeds drug issues and the community’s experience with drug enforcement in the historic experience of minorities, especially African Americans, in America. On this account, drug enforcement is part of an unbroken chain of

deliberate oppression that began with the enforcement of slave codes and slavecatching and continued through the legal and extra-legal repression of Reconstruction; law enforcement’s involvement with the KuKlux Klan and other white racial terrorists; the use of law enforcement to enforce Jim Crow laws and the informal racist rules of the pre-civil rights era; and law enforcement’s attacks on civil-rights activists. The heroin epidemic of the late 1960s and crack epidemic of the late 1980s and early 1990s-which continues in force in many neighborhoods-are viewed as deliberate government actions to damage communities finally freed by the civil-rights movement from formal legal oppression. The community believes that the drug trade could not exist without at least the acquiescence of the police and other authorities, and authorities are believed to be complicit in drug-trafficking. It is believed that the real money in the drug trade goes to high-level figures outside the community, and that there are more drugs sold and used in majority neighborhoods, but that law enforcement has no interest in those people or those crimes. High levels of enforcement, arrest, and incarceration are seen as the intended outcomes of a deliberate outside attack, designed to destabilize the community, control strong young men, and provide work for law-enforcement agencies and prison staff. A dominant law-enforcement narrative is that the affected communities

have entirely lost their fundamental social and moral standards. On this account, the community as a whole no longer stands against drugs, violence, and other crime; sets and enforces no standards for its young people; takes no responsibility for itself but seizes any opportunity to blame outsiders, especially the police; does not insist that its young people finish school, go to work, care for their own children, and the like; and lives off drug money. Drug dealers themselves are sees as irrational and often predatory and sociopathic. They are not deterred by frequent arrest and incarceration or by high levels of homicide and other serious violence; they use violence to settle trivial personal disputes; their drug-dealing destroys their own communities; they corrupt very young children into the drug trade as runners, look-outs, and the like; and they care about nobody, including themselves. A dominant narrative among street dealers and similar offenders is that

they have no choice in what they do because of the barriers created by racist outsiders; that history and current conditions have left them no options; that whites and other outsiders commit more serious crimes-as exemplified by such things as the Iran-Contra and Enron scandals-but do not pay for them as severely; that arrest, incarceration, and death are inevitable and nothing to be afraid of; that “respect” is everything and disrespect must be met with violence; that the community tolerates or supports what they do; and that the police and others in law enforcement are racist predators. These narratives are rarely voiced in any consistent way across the groups

involved-community members say to each other that the police must be conspirators in the drug trade, but do not say it to the police; the police say to each other that it is impossible to do anything about drugs because everyone in the community is living off the trade, but they do not say it to


residents. These strong beliefs therefore go unexamined, unchallenged, and become even more deeply internalized. The result is a profound racial schism with impact and implications well beyond issues of crime and drugs. The “High Point” drug market intervention-so called after the city of

High Point, North Carolina, where it was worked out and first implemented-was framed around the ideas developed so far in this volume and was designed to address all these issues. Perhaps most interesting was that it explicitly recognized and addressed the “norms and narratives” around drug issues that are embedded in law enforcement, communities, and offenders. In so doing, it recognized implicit common ground among all these parties and crafted-despite wide initial polarization-a strategic response in which all parties could change their behavior for mutual benefit. This chapter is not a formal evaluation of the intervention.1 Some apparent

impacts will be presented, and some reasons will be suggested to believe that those apparent impacts are likely to have been caused by the intervention. The main point here, however, is to show one way in which the ideas thus far presented could be applied in practice to an important public-safety problem.