History

In 2004, officials in the High Point Police Department (HPPD) in High Point, North Carolina similar to police executives in many communities, had grown tired and frustrated with open-air drug markets and their associated crime and disorder. With the blessing of a new Police Chief, HPPD set out to try something new. Based on the successes of the Boston Gun Project (Kennedy, 1996) and similar strategic problem solving approaches (e.g., Braga, Pierce, McDevitt, Bond, and Cronin, 2008, McGarrell, Chermak, Wilson, and Corsaro, 2006), as well as the department’s experience with gun and gang violence reduction through Project Safe Neighborhood (PSN), HPPD set out to implement a strategic, focused, data driven project to eliminate drug markets. Rather than focusing on individual drug users and sellers, they focused on shutting down drug markets using a nine-step process (to be discussed later in this document). Their first effort in the West End Neighborhood produced a reported average crime decrease of 57 percent over four years in that neighborhood. According to local residents and the police, the open-air drug market literally disappeared overnight. And, just as interesting, there seemed to have been no displacement effect.[1] That is, HPPD closed down the open-air drug markets in the West End neighborhood without finding evidence of the market reopening elsewhere.

The High Point Police Department has implemented a total of six drug market initiatives from 2004 to 2011. And, as seen in the West End, the drug markets collapsed overnight in the other four target neighborhoods as well. In addition to the reduction in drug and violent crime normally associated with overt drug markets, there were noticeable, palatable, positive effects for all five communities. Indeed, some of the most powerful indicators of changes in the neighborhoods have come from local residents. For example, each year around 100 children attended Vacation Bible School (VBS) at a local church in the West End Neighborhood. Of those 100 children, the most that ever attended that lived in the immediate neighborhood was six. The rest of the attendees drove in from other areas. After the call-in in 2004, VBS attendance increased to over 130 children and 36 of those children were from the immediate West End neighborhood. The Pastor of the church overheard a little boy tell another that it was also “…okay to walk to the church because the neighborhood is alright now.” A similar story was told in Rockford, Illinois, one of the first communities to implement the High Point model for eliminating drug markets. There, the President of the Rockford Neighborhood Association reported to the Deputy Chief that he had trick-or-treaters in his neighborhood for the first time after their call-in. Indeed, whereas the neighborhood experienced no trick-or-treaters in 2006, there were 12 in 2007 and over 100 in 2008.

The High Point West End Initiative, now known generally as the Drug Market Initiative (DMI), has attracted a tremendous amount of attention. In 2007, the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University (MSU), funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), began training interested sites in the DMI model. As of 2012, MSU has trained 24 sites and worked with numerous “self-implementers” many with reports of success similar to High Point.

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[1]Hipple, Corsaro, McGarrell, forthcoming.

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