Nov 2, 2009

The Economist: Bringing Drug Dealers Into the Fold

Thanks to our friends at for pointing to this recent article in The Economist about a unique intervention in High Point, North Carolina.

As you may know, there are been some recent efforts to re-think the way that local jurisdictions deal with low-level, quality-of-life crime. In High Point, the police department decided to work with community leaders to identify the top 16 drug dealers in the crime-challenged West End neighborhood. Once identified, the police built up a solid case of evidence against each of them over the course of some months. After arresting and prosecuting those who engaged in violence, the police "invited the rest in for a chat."

Confronted with evidence of their criminality, these individuals were forced to choose between ceasing their drug dealing or facing prosecution. At the same time, community service providers were on hand to offer jobs, training, or other responses to service needs.

As the article notes, it seems to have worked. The approach is currently being replicated in other jurisdictions under US Department of Justice funding, so hopefully we'll have a fuller body of evidence about this innovative tactic in the next 2-5 years.