This from the Health Research Board (Ireland) website (http://www.hrb.ie/display_content.php?page_id=24&press_release_id=120) :
Link between drugs and crime needs closer examination according to new HRB report
Wednesday 31 May 2006
The starting point for strategies that aim to reduce drug-related crime in Ireland must be a genuine understanding of the complicated relationship between drugs and crime, according to a new report published by the Drug Misuse Research Division of the Health Research Board (HRB). The report analyses the available evidence about drugs and crime in Ireland and aims to inform the development of effective policy responses which could contribute to the reduction of drug-related crime.
'If drug-related crime strategies are going to be effective, we must look not only at the individual who commits the crime but also at the social context in which both drug use and offending behaviour occur,' explains Mr Connolly, criminologist and researcher at the HRB. 'Perception, rather than fact, often drives the way people respond to the problem of drug use and may unduly influence debates about drug legislation, crime prevention, drug treatment and law enforcement. An evidence-based approach recognises that "law and order" reactions alone will not solve the problem of drugs and crime,' explains Mr Connolly.
'Drug law enforcement activities may have contributed to the relative containment of illicit drug use and the authorities have had some success in disrupting drug markets and dismantling organised crime groups. However, there is little evidence in Ireland, or internationally, that such approaches have halted the expansion of illicit drug markets, or reduced the criminal activities linked to them for any sustained period of time'.
Three things are clear after reviewing the available evidence. Firstly, most problematic drug-using offenders have a history of criminal behaviour prior to their initiation into drug use; secondly, the provision of well-resourced treatment services, such as methadone substitution, can have a positive impact on criminal behaviour; and finally, local policing partnerships which acknowledge the real fear of retribution as a deterrent to reporting drug-related crime will be essential to addressing such crime as it impacts in areas of socio-economic deprivation.
'Studies of drug-using offenders consistently show that the typical profile of a problematic drug user is one of severe personal adversity within an environmental context of pronounced socio-economic deprivation,' said Mr Connolly. 'This points to the need to address socio-economic circumstances as an essential part of dealing with the problem of drugs and crime.'
'We must also examine the positive impact that the provision of treatment services can have,' claims Mr Connolly. 'For example, a 29% reduction in recorded crime in Ireland between 1995 and 1999 may be partially explained by the increased availability of methadone maintenance programmes throughout the Dublin area during that period.'
This interpretation is supported by a recent Garda study, which indicated a possible reduction in economically motivated crimes in recent years in the context of increased employment of drug users and increased availability of drug treatment. Three-quarters of the drug users surveyed claimed that their receipt of drug treatment had decreased their criminal activity.
Local studies have highlighted the association of local drug markets with significant levels of community disturbance and anti-social behaviour. The operation of local drug markets can engender apprehension and a reluctance among local residents to co-operate with law enforcement initiatives because of fear of reprisal from drug dealers. The association of drugs and violent crime with systemic aspects of the drug trade are borne out by the increasing evidence of drug-related gangland murders. 'In order to prevent the further decline of local communities, there is a need for local-level policing partnerships which bring together local communities and state agencies in the development of a multi-faceted and coordinated response.'
'It is clear from the evidence in this Overview that strategies need to tackle the underlying social, economic and environmental issues in such communities if there is going to be any real progress in the fight against drugs and crime,' concluded Mr Connolly.
The factors identified in the report that would lead to a better understanding of the relationship between drugs and crime and assist in the development of policy in this area include:
Overview 3, Drugs and crime in Ireland (pdf), is available in the publications section of the HRB website at www.hrb.ie.
- Investigate factors which encourage some drug users into further use and offending behaviour.
- Examine the relationship between the use of specific drugs and drug-related crime.
- Conduct research on:
- The impact of drug-related crime at the local level
- Drug users who are not in the criminal justice system
- Polydrug use and offending behaviour
- Urban and rural differences
- Alcohol and violent crime
- The relationship between illicit drug use and offending behaviour involving violence
- Drug use, crime and gender
- Increase our understanding of the operation of illicit drug markets, from import level to local level, to help inform local responses to drug use and related crime.