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Europe: Scottish Heroin Crackdown Sparks Violent Crime Increase

In an object lesson on the unintended consequences of drug prohibition enforcement, police in Dundee have admitted that their crackdown on heroin has led to an increase in violent crime. Police called it "an unfortunate side effect" of the crackdown, which they qualified as a success.

Tayside Police undertook Operation Waterloo earlier this year in an effort to target drug dealers and users in the Hilltown and Maryfield areas of Dundee. Assistant Chief Constable Clive Murray told the Tayside Joint Police Board 39 people had been arrested, and there was anecdotal evidence of price increases and disruption of the heroin market.

But he also conceded that the operation had driven up the number of assaults and robberies. In the first quarter of 2008, serious and violent crime in the area was at the same level as a year earlier, but by midsummer, as the crackdown raged, crimes began to increase.

"Most of the increase occurred in Central Division and more recent analysis indicates that out of 46 serious assaults recorded, 12 involved the use of a knife or bladed instrument," Murray told the board. "In 82% of robberies detected, we are dealing with people with heroin addiction," he said, adding that in many violent crimes both attacker and victim were addicts.

Prostitution had also increased since the crackdown, he said. But there was good news, too, Murray was quick to add.
"Heroin overdoses are down," Murray said. "Over August there were only two drugs deaths in the Central Division. The good news for me is that intelligence suggests there are people going voluntarily to AD Action and other agencies for treatment. We have been told by addicts they welcome the operation because it gives them a chance to get off heroin."

Still, under questioning from the police board, Murray conceded that while he thought Operation Waterloo was a good model, it needed further development. "It is a good model and it will be developed further for areas that create this hostile environment," he said. "If you ask me, 'Did you get it all right on this occasion?', the answer is no. We have to learn from the experience. We have to involve and work with partners. Police are there primarily to deal with enforcement."

Although some addicts may have told police they welcomed the crackdown, the rising number of crimes attributed to addicts suggests that many more just want to do their heroin -- badly enough that they will rob others to get money to pay for it.

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Heroin Crackdown

I can see the benefit to the drug users (less OD's), but not to the victims of the rising "serious and violent" crime. Seems like those ingesting the drugs ought to bear the consequences, not the innocent "collateral damage" victims of the War on Drugs.

Malkavian's picture

One surprise - but let's not get prematurely excited

I don't know how many OD's they're used to during august, but I would be extremely wary of jumping to conclusions just because some police person is able to pick just one single month with, presumably, low OD deaths.

My own country Denmark and our neighbor Sweden have followed a rather similar pattern of enforcement since 1990. Characteristic of the period is increased crack down on drug addicts, usually by targeting heroin addicts and driving them off or deporting them to diffent parts of town, as well as increasing busts for possession. Since 1990 Denmark had an increase in drug related deaths to 240% (in absolute numbers we have increased from 115 to 275 deaths annually). Sweden has followed a similar path, even harvesting praise from Mr. Costa at the UN for their "great drug policy", but they have increased the number of drug related deaths from 200 to 400 annually, comparably that would be 200%.

I'm sure the police would like to believe that their terrorizing the citizenry will result in those undesirables "seeking voluntary treatment" (ye gawds... voluntary!), but that's no guarantee they'll become drug free as such coercien fails miserable in providing lasting compliance.

However, from what we know increased pressure on the users and sellers of drugs tends to increase stress, creates more desperation and consequently dangerous risk taking behavior, may impact the purity and predictability of the drugs themselves and so on.

Even if they should manage to detox a couple of addicts during this increased terror they may actually increase OD's in the future. In Denmark research has shown something deeply disturbing about rehab in prisons (where we have zero tolerance, Drug War style incentives to enter rehab). I'm gonna run the numbers in absolute figures for expected mortality (the number of person who are expected to die during the next year):

For an average Dane expected mortality is 0,2 out of 100 people
For a drug user in treatment it's 2,4 out of 100 people
For a drug user not in treatment it is estimated to be 5,0 out of 100 people
For a drug user just released from prison the risk during the first two weeks is a whopping 13.0 out of 100 people

Clearly, those who enter treatment in prison do so for reasons other than a sincere wish to be treated, and upon release they resume their habit and are now put in extreme danger because they don't know their tolerance anymore.

Or relatively speaking:

- it's 12 times as dangerous to be a drug addict in treatment than being an average Dane
- it's 25 times as dangerous to be a drug addict outside treatment than being an average Dane

- it's 2.5 times as dangerous to be a newly released drug addict than being a drug addict outside of treatment
- it's 5 times as dangerous to be a newly released drug addict than being a drug addict in treatment

- it's 65 times as dangerous to be a newly released drug addict than being an average Dane.


Kill George Kerr

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