Home > Focused deterrence, selective targeting, drug trafficking and organised crime: Concepts and practicalities. Modernising drug law enforcement report 2.

Felbab Brown, Vanda (2013) Focused deterrence, selective targeting, drug trafficking and organised crime: Concepts and practicalities. Modernising drug law enforcement report 2. London: International Drug Policy Consortium.

PDF (Focused deterrence, selective targeting, drug trafficking and organised crime) - Published Version

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:
• Organised crime and illicit economies generate multiple threats to states and societies. Yet, goals such as a complete suppression of organised crime may sometimes be unachievable, especially in the context of acute state weakness where underdeveloped and weak state institutions are the norm.
• Zero-tolerance approaches to drugs and crime, popular around the world since the late 1980s, have often proven problematic. They have often failed to suppress criminality while increasing human rights violations and police abusiveness.
• Focused-deterrence strategies, selective targeting, and sequential interdiction efforts are being increasingly embraced as more promising law enforcement alternatives.
• These approaches seek to minimise the most pernicious behaviour of criminal groups, such as engaging in violence, or to maximise certain kinds of desirable behaviour sometimes exhibited by criminals, such as eschewing engagement with terrorist groups.
• Focused-deterrence and selective targeting strategies enable overwhelmed law enforcement institutions to overcome certain under-resourcing problems.
• How ‘the most pernicious’ group is defined or what is designated as ‘the most harmful’ behaviour to be deterred can vary. The broad concept is to move law enforcement forces away from random non-strategic strikes and blanket ‘zero-tolerance’ approaches against lowest-level offenders, and toward strategic selectivity to give each counter-crime operation enhanced impact.
• Whether to focus selective interdiction on high-value targets or the middle layer of criminal groups is importantly related to whether incapacitation or deterrence strategies are privileged and what focus and objective they have.
• The focused-deterrence approaches and prioritised-interdiction concepts are to a great extent derived from Boston’s fight against violent gangs in the early 1990s. Similar strategies, as well as transnational versions of focused-deterrence approaches, have been adopted elsewhere in the world.
• Factors that impact the level of effectiveness of focused-deterrence strategies and selective interdiction include the political context, the level of pre-existing intelligence and enforcement capacity of the government, the government’s capacity to concentrate resources, the size and scale of criminality, the complexity of and power distribution in the criminal market, and the structure of criminal groups.
• Careful monitoring of the effectiveness and side effects of these strategies is necessary, although evaluating their effectiveness presents difficult inferential problems and threats to validity.

Repository Staff Only: item control page