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Home > Applying harm reduction principles to the policing of retail drug markets. Modernising drug law enforcement report 3.

Stevens, Alex (2013) Applying harm reduction principles to the policing of retail drug markets. Modernising drug law enforcement report 3. London: International Drug Policy Consortium.

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The objective of this project, led by the International Drug Policy Consortium, with the participation of the International Security Research Department at Chatham House and the International Institute for Strategic Studies, is to collate and refine theoretical material and examples of new approaches to drug law enforcement, as well as to promote debate amongst law enforcement leaders on the implications for future strategies.

Key points:
• The level of harm is more important than the size of the market.
• Visible, open air drug markets tend to be more harmful per unit of use than hidden, closed drug markets
• Policing tactics that are not experienced by the community as being fair, lawful and effective will harm police legitimacy and community relations.
• Some enforcement-led approaches, including short-term crackdowns and large scale stop and search, are unlikely to produce sustainable reductions in drug sales. They may increase levels of violence and health harms and reduce police legitimacy.
• It is rarely possible to eliminate retail drug markets, but well designed and implemented policing tactics can force the drug market to take less harmful forms.
• Applying harm reduction principles to drug policing may boost police legitimacy as well as community safety.
• Focused deterrence and ‘pulling levers’ may reduce both harm and crime, but this depends on the context and on careful implementation and evaluation.


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