Source: BBC NEWS
Police should take a “smarter” approach to tackling drugs to reduce levels of violent crime, a think tank has said.
The UK Drug Policy Commission‘s report says the government’s strategy focuses too much on seizures and arrests and not enough on reducing harm.
It says new dealers often take the place of those arrested and can bring new problems such as violent turf wars.
The Home Office said: “Harm reduction underpins every element of our approach to tackling this complex issue.”
The commission cites the example of the US city of Boston, where murder rates fell when police offered not to prosecute gangsters for dealing drugs if they stopped killing each other.
“ It doesn’t mean don’t arrest and seize, it means you do it in a smarter way ”
UK Drug Policy Commission
It said in the UK’s entrenched drugs markets arrests can lead to damaging unintended consequences.
For example, the arrested dealer may be replaced by someone who is more violent.
Or if a backstreet, city-centre hot spot is shut down, dealers may move to a suburban area where the impact and fear imposed on the community is much greater.
And arresting one king-pin drug dealer also raises the possibility of creating a power vacuum with the resulting turf war and spike in violence.
A commission spokesman said enforcement was important and had reduced availability.
But he said that, beyond a certain point, when you imposed greater enforcement you did not necessarily see an equivalent reduction in harm.
“Where drug markets are established in this country you are going to suffer from diminishing returns,” he said.
Therefore it could be better not to focus on eradicating the markets altogether, but on making sure they take the least harmful form possible, he said.
The spokesman said that, for example, it might be better that dealers were pushed out of local parks – where they created fear in the community and stopped children wanting to play – and into a dealer’s home.
“It doesn’t mean don’t arrest and seize, it means you do it in a smarter way so that you constantly think of how it will have a sustainable impact.
“What we all want to do is make communities safer.”
But the Home Office said “tough enforcement is a fundamental part” of their strategy, but also acknowledged the complexity of the problem.
A Home Office spokesman said: “We are not complacent; communities do not want to be blighted by the effects of drug misuse and drug dealing.
“That is why police, local authorities and communities must continue to work together so that our streets and communities can be free from the crime and anti-social behaviour they cause.