Tuesday, August 09, 2022
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A report released by the UK Drug Policy Commission, released on July 30, 2009 and discussed here by the British Press Association, found in their survey of law enforcement officers that "[n]ine out of 10 of those questioned said it was 'unlikely' UK drugs markets would be eradicated in the near future." The study did not limit itself to law enforcement but also addressed drug markets and drug dealers themselves. For example, the Commission found that "drug dealers were often able to avoid having their operations shut down by police" and were "quick to adapt" when avoidance was not possible.
But the Commission did not limit itself to simple observations. Instead, it used its findings to make recommendations regarding how and where law enforcement should distribute its resources. As the Press Association states, "the authors suggested targeting law enforcement efforts at reducing the harm caused by illegal drugs." The study suggested such practices as "moving drug dealers from residential neighbourhoods to different areas where they would cause less harm" and "measuring success" based on something other than "arrests and seizures," which the report characterized as having "limited value." Indeed, the Commission suggested that "[e]ven successful police operations can sometimes have negative consequences if, for example, they create a turf war between rival gangs." The Commission seems to have discovered what drug policy reformers have known for over a decade.
Alan Campbell, minister for UK governing body Home Office, told the Press Association that "Tough enforcement is a fundamental part of our drug strategy, and the police continue to make real progress in tackling the supply of illegal drugs and in reducing the harm they cause. As the report states, harm reduction underpins every element of our approach to tackling this complex issue." However, based on the UK's recent jump from more liberalized to more conservative interdiction-based drug policies, Campbell's answer begs the question: is the government really listening?