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Justice Programs Office

Drug Market Intervention Training / Technical Assistance Initiative (2007-2010)

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In September 2007, BJA launched a special training initiative to assist jurisdictions interested in implementing the Drug Market Intervention (DMI) Initiative, developed initially by David Kennedy of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice as a means of responding to the problems of open drug markets that had developed in many communities, along with their associated crime, violence, and disorder. The strategy, entailing a multi-agency team effort by local and federal law enforcement officials, neighborhood leaders, social service providers, and local government officials has drawn considerable interest and generated promising results in terms of enhanced community safety and quality of life. The Justice Programs Office of the School of Public Affairs at American University has been providing technical assistance to jurisdictions participating in the BJA DMI training initiative as well as information on the DMI initiative to other requesting jurisdictions.

The DMI strategy was first implemented in High Point, North Carolina, where the High Point Police Department (HPPD) implemented a strategic, focused, data-driven, problem-solving program aimed at permanently closing down open drug markets. The High Point West End Initiative (HPWEI) produced an average decrease in crime of 41 percent over three years in that neighborhood with no apparent displacement effect.

Implementation of the DMI strategy in High Point entailed an assessment of the local drug market through crime mapping and incident reviews to delineate the nature of the drug market and to map out the individuals involved in drug sales, purchases, and distribution networks. Having determined that a relatively small group of chronic offenders were responsible for the drug market and much of its associated crime and violence, local officials decided that a “lever pulling” strategy based on notions of focused deterrence might be useful, given the information that had been compiled regarding the local drug market program. They then conducted a traditional drug enforcement operation involving undercover buys, building cases against the key players, with warrants executed upon those key individuals believed to be “major players” and involved in violent crime.

Rather than arresting all those eligible, however, the task force invited the lower-level drug market offenders and their significant family members to a community meeting. At the meeting, law enforcement and prosecution officials explained the cases that had been built against the individuals in attendance, told them that they would defer prosecuting these cases in the hope these individuals could succeed in the community, but that they would activate and prosecute the existing cases if the offenders continued dealing. Community members also spoke openly at the meeting regarding their frustration with living in an open drug market environment. The law enforcement officials then made a promise to the offenders: their charges would be held in abeyance as long two conditions were fulfilled: (1) the drug market must end immediately (and not move elsewhere), and (2) the violence associated with the market must end immediately. Violations of these conditions would result in executing the warrants and maximum sentences would be sought for these individuals based on the cases that had already been developed.

This deterrence-based message was also coupled with an attempt to link the offenders to a broad array of services. Social service and related social support resources were presented with opportunities for one-to-one connections with the service providers.

As noted above, the initial reports from High Point, subsequently replicated in other drug markets across the country, have been very encouraging. The drug markets have been closed and remain closed, neighborhood crime and disorder have declined significantly, and community revitalization has occurred.

For further information regarding the DMI initiative and operational materials developed by jurisdictions which have implemented the DMI strategy, please also see Angel Learning.