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Probing the Links Between Drugs and Crime

NCJ Number
B A Gropper
Date Published
5 pages
This summary of recent research into the nature and extent of the drug-crime link at the level of the individual offender examines effects of drug use on criminality, relation of drug use patterns to crime patterns, costs of addiction, and policy implications.
Results of a study of career criminals indicate that different levels of use of such drugs as heroin were directly related to individual criminality and that a history of drug abuse was one of the best predictors of serious career criminality. Another study found that the intensity of criminal behavior, especially property crime, was directly related to drug use status. Users' crime rates dropped to relatively low levels during periods of little or no narcotics use and increased four- to sixfold during periods of active addiction. Street level heroin abusers were found to engage in a variety of criminal behaviors to support their drug habits. Compared to regular (3 to 5 times per week) and irregular heroin users, daily heroin users had the highest crime rates and committed more violent crimes. Daily users consumed over $17,000 worth of drugs per year and gained over $11,000 cash income per year from crime. The annual costs imposed on society by daily heroin users totaled about $55,000 per offender. Overall, cumulative evidence is clear that there is a consistent pattern of correlation between drug abuse and crime that reflects a real, albeit indirect, causal link. Implications of this finding are that treatment and education programs targeted toward reducing drug use by the most frequent and intensive users could result in more significant reductions in drug-related crime than those aimed toward lesser users. Included are 18 references.