Lynne Rienner Publishers Logo

Policing Illegal Drug Markets: Geographic Approaches to Crime Reduction

George Rengert, Jerry H. Ratcliffe, and Sanjoy Chakravorty
ISBN: 978-1-881798-57-6
2005/172 pages
A CriminalJusticePress Project

"This is an interesting and thought provoking text. While short and easy to read, it contains much information and its arguments do not simplify complex issues. It should be read by practitioners, scholars, policy makers, and anyone else concerned about community drug problems."—D. Kim Rossmo, Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice

"The book is comprehensive in several respects—in its review of the relevant literature, the scope of its statistical analysis, and the breadth of its consideration of policies that could help reduce the use and distribution of illegal drugs. The case study approach works well to illuminate the more general points.... this book is a welcome antidote to the simplistic political nostrums that generate policies that mindlessly overpopulate US prisons. It also usefully illustrates that crime activity, like all other social activity, is grounded in place, and thus possesses geographic wellsprings that deserve attention."—Steve Herbert, Professional Geographer


A multipronged policing strategy to reduce drug trafficking in local communities is proposed in this new book by three Temple University researchers. The proposed strategy has been developed during a comprehensive study of illegal drug markets in a medium-sized East Coast city.

According to the authors, the US War on Drugs has been largely ineffective. Evaluations have shown little positive impact from policies intended to: a) interdict the supply of illegal drugs imported from foreign countries; b) reduce demand for illegal substances among youths through Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) programs in schools; and c) arrest large numbers of drug sellers during crackdowns in high-risk neighborhoods.

The alternative strategy oulined in this book begins with detailed economic and geographic analyses of what makes particular locations attractive sites for illegal drug markets. Police then select from a menu of 76 tested crime prevention tactics intended to make those locations unprofitable for drug trafficking, with different combinations of techniques targeted at indoor sales of illegal substances, or the purchasers of illicit drugs, and/or the dealers.

The authors conclude that the police officers who patrol on a daily basis are in a unique position to determine what the problems of a particular site are. In tackling these drug problems, the police should be encouraged to think beyond their traditional role as crime fighters into a new role as problems solvers.


George F. Rengert and Jerry H. Ratcliffe are faculty members of the School of Criminal Justice at Temple University in Philadelphia. Sanjoy Chakravorty chairs the Department of Geography and Urban Studies at Temple University.