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Drug Related Crime

 

bulletThe percentage of state prison inmates who reported being under the influence of drugs at the time of their offense was almost thirty-three percent (33%) (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1997).
bulletIn Albuquerque, New Mexico and Chicago, Illinois, close to thirty percent (30%) of males arrested and forty percent (40%) of females arrested in 1999 tested positive for more than one drug at the time of arrest (National Institute of Justice, 2000).
bulletAn estimated 61,000 (16%) of convicted jail inmates committed their offense to get money for drugs (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000).
bulletIn 1998, Americans spent $66 billion on illegal drugs, with $39 billion being spent by consumers on cocaine (Office of National Drug Control Policy, 2000).
bulletIn 1999, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported an estimated 1,577,100 arrests for drug abuse violations in the United Sates (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2000).

Overview

In examining crime in the United States, correlations are often established between drug use and criminal behavior. The violence spawned by chronic, hardcore drug use is the most tenacious and damaging aspect of America’s drug problem (Office of National Drug Control Policy, 1994). The sale and use of drugs have continued to afflict our communities and plague our nation, and research continues to indicate that drug use precipitates criminal activity.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 1999 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, an estimated 14.8 million Americans were current drug users, meaning that they had used an illicit drug in the month prior to the survey (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2000).

Another major study tracing illicit drug use trends is Monitoring the Future -- which surveys 8th, 10th, and 12th graders and is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). In 2000, the percentage of high school seniors reporting use of any illicit drug at least once in their lives was fifty-four percent (54%) and those reporting use during the past year dropped to almost forty-one percent (41%). Between 1999 and 2000, past year drug use decreased or remained the same for most of the drugs measured by the

survey -- marijuana/hashish, LSD, PCP, other hallucinogens, cocaine, crack, heroin, inhalants, and steroids. Between 1999 and 2000, use of all major drugs also continued to decrease or stay the same for 8th and 10th graders. The drug with the most increases in use among all grades included in the study was MDMA [Ecstasy] (University of Michigan, 2000).

Drugs and Crime

The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse not only asks individuals in American households about their drug and alcohol use, but also asks them about their involvement in acts that could get them in trouble with the police. Provisional data for 1997 shows those illicit drug users were about 16 times more likely than nonusers to report being arrested and booked for larceny or theft; and 9 times more likely to be arrested and booked on an assault charge (Office of National Drug Control Policy, Fact Sheet, 2000).

In examining the State and Federal prison inmates who reported being under the influence of drugs at the time of their offense, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (1997) reports the following:

24.5 percent (24.5%) of Federal and 29 percent (29%) of State prison inmates reported being under the influence of drugs when committing violent offenses.

10.8 percent (10.8%) of Federal and 36.6 percent (36.6%) of State inmates reported being under the of drugs while committing property offenses.

25 percent (25%) of Federal and 41.9 percent (41.9%) of inmates reported being under the influence of drugs when committing drug offenses.

24.4 percent (24.4%) of Federal and 22.4 percent (22.4%) of State prison inmates reported being under the influence of drugs when committing weapon offenses.

The U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey asks the violent crime victims who reported seeing their offenders whether they perceived the offender to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. According to the 1999 survey, over a quarter of the violent crime victims could make such a determination. About twenty-eight percent (28%) of those reported that the offender was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. The most common substance identified was alcohol alone. About sixteen percent (16%) reported that the offender was under the influence of alcohol alone (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2001).

The term "drug-related crimes" has been subject to criticism as it does not clearly define the specific nature or range of such crimes. Crimes that occur as a result of victim’s or offender’s drug use, crimes that transpire subsequent to the offender’s need to support his or her drug habit, and crimes that occur as a result of drug trafficking and distribution are all considered "drug-related crimes." While most drug-related crimes are applicable to one of these categories, some may include more than one classification. The following narrative provides a brief, detailed description of each of these categories.

Victim/Offender Use-Related:

These crimes include those that are consequential to the ingestion of a drug by the victim or offender, causing irrational or violent behavior. This includes perpetration of a crime against a victim by the offender, as well as self-victimization due to mood changes initiated by substance abuse. Such crimes also include crimes committed by individuals experiencing withdrawal symptoms--such as high levels of anxiety and irritability--and intentional ingestion of a drug to "relieve anxieties and stimulate courage" in preparation for acts of violence (Goldstein, Brownstein, & Ryan, 1992).

Recent national statistics related to such crimes include:
bulletIn 1999, there were 187 alcohol-induced brawls and 111 narcotic-induced brawls that resulted in murder (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2000).
bulletThe 1999 Annual Report on Drug Use Among Adult and Juvenile Arrestees reported that the median rate of any drug use among adult male arrestees for both 1998 and 1999 was sixty-four percent (64%). For adult female arrestees, the median rate of any drug use in 1999 was sixty-seven percent (67%) (National Institute of Justice, 2000).

Economic-Related:

Economic crimes include those that are committed by drug users in order to support additional drug use. These crimes may not be inherently violent, but may become violent. The strongest indicator in classifying crimes of this nature is that the offender committed the crimes as a result of his or her compulsion to obtain drugs (Goldstein, Brownstein, & Ryan, 1992).

Recent national statistics related to such crimes include:
bulletAccording to Substance Abuse and Treatment, State and Federal Prisoners, 1997, nineteen percent (19%) of State prisoners and sixteen percent (16%) of Federal inmates reported that they committed their most current offense to obtain money for drugs (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1997).
bulletThe percent of jail inmates who committed their offense to get money for drugs totaled about thirteen (13%). Among those inmates who committed their offense to obtain money for drugs, almost twelve percent (12%) committed violent offenses and nearly twenty-five percent (25%) committed property offenses (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000).

System-Related:

These crimes include those that are directly or indirectly related to the system of drug trafficking and distribution, which frequently tend to be associated with the commission of violent crimes. Therefore, these include not only violations such as drug possession and/or manufacturing, but also crimes of violence resulting from dealings between drug dealers, competition for drug markets and customers, disputes and rip-offs among individuals involved in the illegal drug market, drug deals gone bad, identification of informers or undercover law enforcement officials, etc. Murder as a means of enforcing systemic codes, killing of informants, injury or death resulting from disputes over drug possession, territory, etc., are all included in this definition (Goldstein, Brownstein, & Ryan, 1992).

Recent national statistics related to such crimes include:

In 1999, nearly eighty-one percent (81%) of the arrests for drug abuse violations occurred as a result of possession and almost 20 percent (20%) were a result of drug sale and manufacturing (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2000).

Murders resulting from drug offenses totaled 564 in 1999 (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2000).

Conclusion

Drug use and criminal behavior certainly seem to be correlated. The evidence indicates that:
bulletDrug users are more likely than nonusers to commit crimes,
bulletArrestees and inmates were often under the influence of a drug(s) at the time they committed their offenses, and
bulletDrug trafficking and distribution generate violence.

Yet, without more evidence, it is impossible to say quantitatively how much drugs influence the occurrence of crime. However, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is developing an enhanced reporting system, the National Incident-Based Reporting System, that would involve reporting all crimes committed during any offense--currently, an incident is reported in terms of its relationship to the most serious offense only. The enhanced reporting system will provide more quantitative evidence of how many crimes are actually drug-related (Bureau of Justice Statistics, Fact Sheet, 1994).

References

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (1994, September). Fact Sheet: Drug-Related Crime--Drugs & Crime Data. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (1999). Substance Abuse and Treatment, State and Federal Prisoners, 1997. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2000). Criminal Victimization in the United States, 1999. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2000). Drug Use, Testing, and Treatment in Jails. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2000). Crime in the United States, 1999. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Goldstein, Paul, Henry Brownstein, and Patrick Ryan. (1992). "Drug-Related Homicides in New York: 1984 and 1988." Crime and Delinquency, 38(4): 459-476.

National Institute of Justice. (2000). 1999 Annual Report on Drug Abuse Among Adult and Juvenile Arrestees. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.

Office of National Drug Control Policy. (1994). Reducing the Impact of Drugs on American Society. Washington, DC: Executive Office of the President of the United States.

Office of National Drug Control Policy. (2000). Fact Sheet: Drug-Related Crime. Washington, DC: Executive Office of the President of the United States.

Office of National Drug Control Policy. (2000). What America’s Users Spend on Illegal Drugs 1988-1998. Washington, DC: Executive Office of the President of the United States.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2000). 1999 National Household Survey Highlights. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research. (2000). 2000 Monitoring the Future. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute on Drug Abuse.


For additional information, please contact:

Policy Information Clearinghouse
P.O. Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
(800) 666-3332

National Clearinghouse for Alcohol & Drug Information
Center for Substance Abuse Prevention
P.O. Box 2345
Rockville, MD 20847
(800) 729-6686

Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists (AAIM)
870 East Higgins Road
Suite 131
Schaumburg, IL 60173
(708) 240-0027

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) - National
511 East John Carpenter Freeway
Suite 700
Irving, TX 75062
(800) 438-MADD
(214) 744-MADD

Remove Intoxicated Drivers (RID) - USA
P.O. Box 520
Schenectady, NY 12301
(518) 393-4357

FYI: A Program of the National Center for Victims of Crime.

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