Neighborhood – McCabe (2009)

Study Reference:

McCabe, J. E. (2009). The narcotics initiative: An examination of the NYPD approach to drug enforcement, 1995-2001. Criminal Justice Policy Review20, 170-187

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Neighborhood; Focused; Proactive; Moderately Rigorous; Mixed findings

What police practice or strategy was examined?

The narcotics initiative centered on a three-prong enforcement strategy using a problem solving approach. The narcotics initiative strategy focused on the underlying conditions that were thought to be associated with street drug markets and attempted to eradicate the organizations and locations behind them. First, the gang or organization behind the sales of drugs was identified through interviews after drug arrests known as debriefings. Second, the location from which the organization operated was identified. Third, efforts were employed to prevent another gang from setting up shop after the first drug gang was arrested.

How was the intervention evaluated?

Queens County, NY is separated into 16 separate police precincts. This research looks at the experience in six precincts where the narcotics initiative approach was implemented. Because the implementation of the initiative strategy was staggered, one set of three precincts received the experimental treatment (Southeast Queens Initiative, SEQI), whereas the remaining 13 acted as controls. After 15 months, three more precincts received the experimental treatment (Queens North narcotic initiative, QNNI), and the remaining 10 precincts acted as controls. Control and experimental precincts were compare on crime and arrest rates.

What were the key findings?

The results for the initiatives are mixed. Neither the SEQI deployed in November, 1997, nor the QNNI deployed in February, 1999, had a significant impact on the rate of arrests for controlled substances. A significant increase in the marijuana arrest rate was only associated with the deployment of the SEQI and not the QNNI. The crime rate significantly decreased only for the SEQI treatment area.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

Timing and management could account for the difference in effectiveness. The QNNI began 15 months after SEQI. Perhaps crime was reduced to levels so low that a narcotics deployment of this scope was unnecessary. Additionally, the first SEQI commander was part of the development of the initiative.

Where can I find more information about this intervention, similar types of intervention, or related studies?