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Crack Cocaine and Drugs-Crime Careers

NCJ Number
H Parker; T Bottomley
Date Published
4 pages
This report summarizes the findings of a study of 82 crack and heroin addicts in Northwest England.
They were interviewed about their drug use and their sources of funding for their drugs. In Northwest England crack cocaine is readily available from a multiplicity of dealers. Crack cocaine addicts, as most of those interviewed could be described, were typically spending more than 20,000 pounds a year on drugs. By contrast, the smaller group of heroin addicts interviewed spent, on average, 10,000 pounds a year. There was considerable individual variation in patterns and costs of drug consumption. The distinction between crack and heroin as the primary drug of addiction was sometimes tenuous. Nearly all the crack users bought a wide range of other illicit substances, often supplemented by alcohol and tobacco. The authors coined the term "rock repertoire" to describe this drugs menu orbiting around crack use. Not all the ways of paying for drugs involved acquisitive crime. Many of those interviewed received state benefits or, less commonly, legitimate earnings. Some women with costly drug habits relied on prostitution. A substantial minority funded their addiction by drug dealing. Nevertheless, acquisitive crime had a prominent place as well. A majority of crack and heroin addicts funded their habit partly or wholly by acquisitive crime, i.e., theft, shoplifting, fraud, and burglary, rather than crimes of violence; however, some interviewees felt their dependence on crack led them to commit riskier offenses, perhaps with a greater potential for violence. For the majority of those who supported drug use by acquisitive crime, their criminal careers predated drug dependence. Those interviewed, especially those heavily dependent on crack cocaine, often viewed treatment as a remote or irrelevant prospect, with prison as a more likely probability.