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May 19, 2012

"Data suggests drug treatment can lower US crime"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Reuters piece via Fox News.  Here are excerpts:

U.S. crime statistics show illegal drugs play a central role in criminal acts, providing new evidence that tackling drugs as a public health issue could offer a powerful tool for lowering national crime rates, officials said on Thursday.

An annual drug monitoring report, released by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, also showed a decline in the use of cocaine since 2003, a sign that drug-interdiction efforts and public education campaigns may be curtailing the use of the drug's powder and crack forms. The rate of overall illegal drug use in the United States has declined by roughly 30 percent since 1979.

But Thursday's report, based on thousands of arrestee interviews and drug tests, showed that on average 71 percent of men arrested in 10 U.S. metropolitan areas last year tested positive for an illegal substance at the time they were taken into custody.  The figures ranged from 64 percent of arrests in Atlanta to 81 percent in Sacramento, California, and were higher for nearly half of the collection sites since 2007.

U.S. officials held up the data as evidence to support President Barack Obama's strategy aimed at breaking the cycle of drugs and crime by attacking substance abuse with treatment rather than jail for nonviolent offenders. "Tackling the drug issue could go a long way in reducing our crime issues," Gil Kerlikowske, head of the office that issued the report, told Reuters in an interview. "These data confirm that we must address our drug problem as a public health issue, not just a criminal justice issue."

The arrest figures included men taken into custody on more than one charge as well as those arrested in drug busts. The data showed that on average about 23 percent of violent crimes and property crimes, including home burglaries, were committed by people who tested positive for at least one of 10 illegal drugs including marijuana, heroin and methamphetamines. Charlotte, North Carolina, had the highest proportion of drug-related violent crime offenses at 29 percent, while New York City had the highest for drug-related property crimes at 32 percent....

U.S. health officials says the link between drugs and crime is socially complex. But the effect drugs have on human behavior can seem more straightforward. "Drugs impact things like inhibitory control. And our ability to weigh risks and consequences of certain behaviors is severely effected by drug abuse," said Dr. Redonna Chandler of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Drug enforcement experts say the evidence strongly supports wider use of drug courts, which seek to impose treatment regimens instead of prison sentences on repeat criminals that are dependent on illegal drugs.

West Huddleston, of the Alexandria, Virginia-based National Association of Drug Court Professionals, said a convicted criminal who successfully completes a court-imposed treatment regimen is nearly 60 percent less likely to return to crime than those who go untreated. There are more than 2,600 drug courts operating in the United States. But they reach only a fraction of drug-addicted offenders.

According to Chandler, 5 million of an estimated 7 million Americans who live under criminal justice supervision would benefit from drug treatment intervention. But only 7.6 percent actually receive treatment.

The full official report serving as the basis for this story is available at this link, and it provides lots of interesting information about persons who get arrested, including these data:

Over half (55 percent) were not working either full or part time.  Depending on the site, from 27 percent to 82 percent had no form of health insurance, either private, work related, or government subsidized.  They were also a population very familiar with the criminal justice system: in 9 of the 10 sites, 80 percent or more of arrestees had been arrested before, and from 13 to 30 percent had been arrested more than two times in just the prior year.

Perhaps appropriately, I have not seen any effort to spin this 2011 arrestee information to assert that data suggest job growth or health care reform can lower US crime.  More generally, I feel confident that the relationship(s) between drug use, employment, health care and crime rates are very complex and defy any simple solutions. 

Still, this new arrestee data is interesting and important.  And I am pleased to see the Obama Administration, via this White House post by drug czar Gil Kerlikowski, use the data to push for more drug treatment and not simply to push for still greater funding for the federal drug war.

Some recent and older related posts on drug courts and drug politics:

May 19, 2012 at 02:30 PM | Permalink


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I'm all for treatment; indeed, I would consider a program where the inmate is required to complete treatment before release.

Treatment and jail are hardly mutually exclusive. Experience shows that treatment is more effective, and taken more seriously, if it is backed up by the realistic threat of jail.

Finally, I'm glad someone has noticed the strong correlation between drug use and other bad things that help cripple a person's life, and lead to crime. Drug use should be suppressed, and we should not give any of the mixed messages that would come with legalization.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 19, 2012 2:58:29 PM

I'm so sick of bleeding heart liberals trying to get people better rather than punishing them when punishment is so much more fun.

This report is false.

1. "New York City had the highest for drug-related property crimes at 32 percent"

Impossible because NYC has been fixing its windows for years.

2. "Depending on the site, from 27 percent to 82 percent had no form of health insurance, either private, work related, or government subsidized."

Obviously an Obama ploy and he's not even a U.S. citizen! We musen't ever, ever, ever lead these doucebags to think we care about them enough that could become healthy.

Posted by: George | May 19, 2012 4:14:30 PM

>U.S. officials held up the data as evidence to support President Barack Obama's strategy aimed at breaking the cycle of drugs and crime by attacking substance abuse with treatment rather than jail for nonviolent offenders.

To bad the data doesn't match the PR.

National Drug Control Budget - FY 2012 Funding Highlights
FY 12 request - 8,982.1
FY 10-12 change - $98.7
percent change - 1.1%

The link you have to this story made the same observation last summer
"Bummer: Barack Obama turns out to be just another drug warrior"

If you seriously believed the link between crime and drugs, the least you would do is fund drug treatment on demand to catch people when they say they need help.

Posted by: Paul | May 20, 2012 7:32:46 AM

Your article is very interesting and informative. Drug addiction is the cause of a lot of major crimes. I am a health worker and our organisation offers alchohol and drug addiction treatment. Do have a look at our website for more details.

Posted by: addiction treatment centre | Jul 10, 2012 2:30:09 PM

Definitely in the recent studies we have been found that the crime percentage of US is now being very lower due to drug treatments, a huge number of criminal offenses are recognized in this country through drug addiction nature of criminal.

It is really a great news for the public of America as every drug addicted criminal suffers through a hard core circumstances in the current administration of President Barack Obama, therefore these fears are helps to reduce the quantity of drug addict persons.

Posted by: Mike Vaughan | Oct 23, 2012 5:08:43 AM

I found this post is very informative and shares very good information. When addiction is very bad thing that it make persons to do crime.

Posted by: Basim Elhabashy | Mar 18, 2015 10:00:41 AM

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