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Police Legitimacy and Disrupting Overt Drug Markets

NCJ Number
Policing - An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management Volume: 39 Issue: 4 Dated: 2016 Pages: 667-679
Jessica Saunders; Allison J. Ober; Dionne Barnes-Proby
Date Published
13 pages
This article reports on a study that examined theoretical mechanisms hypothesized to create immediate and sustained disruption in overt drug markets, focusing on the role of strengthened police/community relations, and greater police legitimacy.
Overt drug markets are particularly difficult to address with traditional law enforcement tactics alone; disrupting these markets often requires substantial community cooperation. Enhancing police-community relations has been offered as a promising strategy for closing overt markets, demonstrating sustained success in several settings. The current study involved a series of focus groups with community residents across three sites over 15-months after a drug market intervention. A repeated cross-sectional design enabled in-depth analysis of the views of study participants regarding mechanisms of change over time. Study participants remained ambivalent about police legitimacy; they expressed appreciation for local policing efforts to improve neighborhood conditions, but expressed negative feelings about the overall policing profession. Residents also worried that the increased police presence might lead to greater harassment. Regardless of their misgivings, however, the findings indicate increases in police cooperation and improvements in some previously identified components of police legitimacy. Study participants perceived a more focused police response, resulting in disruptions of the drug market and sustained improvements in neighborhood conditions. (publisher abstract modified)