Crime and drugs: Is the ice starting to break?

There’s some evidence that it is.

The issue of the New Yorker on the newsstands tomorrow has a John Seabrook profile of David Kennedy and his focused deterrence/targeted zero tolerance/pulling levers approach to reducing gang and drug-market violence. Jeremy Travis, who runs John Jay College (where Kennedy teaches) has put together a national network of cities willing to try out the new strategies, and has raised some serious foundation money to help out.

Meanwhile, Angela Hawken has crunched the numbers on the HOPE probation-enforcement program in Hawai’i. We now know that it’s possible to get people with serious drug habits and serious criminal histories to behave themselves: if you learn how to deliver swift and certain sanctions, the sanctions don’t have to be severe and you don’t have to deliver them very often. And since the criminally-active population accounts for the bulk of drug sales, not only does that reduce crime, it also shrinks the markets.

Back at the ranch, we have an Attorney General and a drug czar who don’t think that locking up everyone in sight is the solution to anything, and Jim Webb seems to be serious about doing something on the over-imprisonment problem.

Green shoots? Maybe.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com