Overview of: “The Impact of Drug Market Pulling Levers Policing on Neighborhood Violence: An Evaluation of the High Point Drug Market Intervention”




Research Summary Pulling levers policing draws upon the focused deterrence framework, which has shown considerable promise when directed at youth, gun, and gang offenders. However, much less is known about the viability of pulling levers when applied to different contexts as well as to diverse groups of offenders. We examine the High Point (North Carolina) Drug Market Intervention (DMI), the first site to use pulling levers as a place-based policing approach to disrupt a series of open-air drug markets across the city. Eleven years of longitudinal data are analyzed by using difference-in-difference panel regression analyses combined with finite mixture estimation as a means to test for divergence in violent crime patterns. Several key, although inconsistent, findings are presented. First, we found a statistically significant reduction in violent offenses in specific high-crime places (i.e., high-trajectory census blocks) located across the different targeted neighborhoods compared with the remainder of High Point, and relative to comparable nontargeted areas. Second, the citywide violent crime rate actually increased after a series of interventions unfolded, which may suggest limitations with the approach. Finally, trend analyses indicated the strategy had different levels of violent crime impact throughout unique geographic contexts.

Policy Implications Rather than arresting every offender identified as having participated in illicit drug trafficking across various geographic contexts within the city, officials in High Point decided to invite low-risk drug offenders to community notification sessions in order to change their perceived risk of punishment as well as to mobilize community members across the different targeted neighborhoods. The suggestive evidence of potential, although limited, violent crime impact illustrates that this type of policing strategy may hold considerable promise. This interpretation gains credence when considered with prior evaluations of the DMI approach that illustrated the potential for reducing drug-related crime and in light of reports of improved police–community relations. The inconsistent findings across all locations and the overall city increase in violent crime toward the end of the study period, however, raise several concerns when interpreting study results. Additionally, our findings suggest that further replications should include systematic problem-identification, process measures, and more precise research designs.