A policing program that used community mobilization, strategic planning, and pulling levers notifications to reduce drug dealing in a high-crime area. The program is rated Promising. As a result of the intervention, postintervention drug crime incidents declined, and surveyed residents believed that street drug markets were less of an issue after implementation. There was no statistically significant evidence that the intervention impacted Type 1 UCR offenses or calls for service.
Program Goals/Target Sites
The goals of the Nashville (Tenn.) Drug Market Intervention were to disrupt a Nashville street drug market and deter potential offenders, and ultimately to reduce crime and promote a safer neighborhood. The program emphasized a zero-tolerance attitude toward drug dealing, which was demonstrated by a deliberate investigation and video recording of all drug sales in the target area. By reducing drug dealing, the program aimed to increase organization in the community, as disorganization is often associated with more serious crimes. McFerrin Park, a high-crime neighborhood in Nashville, was selected as the target for this program.
The Municipal Nashville Police Department implemented its Drug Market Intervention program in four phases: identification, preparation, notification, and resource delivery.
Identification. During this phase, the police department compiled information from several sources to distinguish drug hot spots. Information on crime trends was provided by research analysts, and intelligence information was provided from officers who participated in sting operations. Witnesses to crimes, narcotics complaints, and police surveillance also provided information. After a full analysis of information gathered, law enforcement officials chose McFerrin Park as the site to receive a focused intervention, due to its high rates of drug activity.
Preparation. Task force members focused on building relationships with other law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, social service providers, faith-based organizations, and community-based groups during this phase to prepare a customized strategy to tackle the open-air drug market in Nashville.
During this phase, the community's individual chronic offenders were also identified and arrested. The facts of each case was reviewed by the police department and District Attorney's Office to determine which offenders would be prosecuted and which would have their charges withheld and instead receive "pulling lever notifications." This decision was based primarily on the offenders’ criminal history; dealers with violent histories were prosecuted, while dealers without violent histories received "notifications" (and ultimately offered community support) instead of prosecution.
Notification. During this phase, those eligible offenders received their notifications. They then attended meetings that focused on individual deterrence and changing the offender’s attitudes and behavior. The meetings were also a way to provide a general deterrent effect by serving as examples to potential offenders.
The police department also focused on notifying the community about the drug market intervention and recent drug-related arrests they had made as part of it. The goal of this phase was to emphasize the message in the community that drug dealing would not be tolerated in McFerrin Park.
Resource-delivery phase. During this final phase, each of the offenders selected to be assigned to pulling levers notifications met with social service providers as part of a preliminary assessment panel. Specific strategies were designed to assist each person based on their needs, including treatment, education and skills training, and job-interview skills.
Through this process, the department strived to show citizens that the focus on reducing open-air drug markets was more than a regular arrest and prosecution. To convey their commitment to ending drug dealing in the neighborhood, the department also increased patrol service and made responding to calls in McFerrin Park a priority.
Cooperation between the Municipal Nashville Police Department, the Davidson County District Attorney’s Office, several community organizations, and research providers was essential to implement this program properly.
The theory behind this program was that even though drug dealing is not a violent crime, street-level drug markets can pose serious danger to neighborhoods. Drug dealers consider reputation maintenance, loss recovery, and retaliation/vengeance as essential ways to maintain legitimacy among their peers. As a result, drug dealing often leads to violent crimes. In addition, drug markets are a form of social disorganization, which leads to a breakdown in informal social controls in neighborhoods and facilitates criminal behavior.
This program based its strategy on the pulling levers approach to crime control. The idea behind the pulling levers strategy is to gather information to identify specific criminal activities and offenders in an area, develop a tailored approach, and implement sanctions for serious offenders; this is known as “pulling” the appropriate “levers.” One of the main goals of the pulling levers strategy is to spread the message that crime will not be tolerated, in order to convey a message of deterrence to the community.
Drug and Narcotic Incidents
Corsaro and colleagues (2010) found that, compared to the preintervention levels, postintervention drug crime incidents in the target area declined by 55.6 percent; drug crime incidents in the adjoining area declined by 38.4 percent; and drug crime incidents in the rest of Nashville declined by 3.3 percent Only the decrease in drug crime incidents in the target area was found to be statistically significant.
Type I UCR Offenses
Compared to preintervention levels, postintervention UCR type I offenses declined by 4.2 percent in the target area, declined by 19.8 percent in the adjoining area, and increased by 3.5 percent in the remainder of Nashville. None of these outcomes were found to be statistically significant, however; there was little evidence that the Nashville drug market intervention significantly impacted serious violent and property crimes in any of the geographic areas.
Calls for Service
Compared to preintervention levels, postintervention levels of calls for service declined by 12.9 percent in the target area, declined by 4 percent in the adjoining area, and declined by 2.1 percent in the remainder of Nashville. None of these outcomes were found to be statistically significant.
Perception of Problem of Drug Markets in McFerrin Park
For the statement, “Street drug markets were a major problem in McFerrin Park a little over a year ago,” 43 respondents (97.7 percent) rated it as “agree,” 1 (2.3 percent) rated it as “neutral,” and 0 rated it as “disagree.” For the statement, “Street drug markets are a major problem in McFerrin Park now (August 2009),” 3 respondents (7 percent) agreed, 1 was neutral (2.3 percent), and 39 (90.7 percent) disagreed. The results of this survey indicate that residents of McFerrin Park believed that street drug markets were less of an issue after the Nashville Drug Market Intervention was implemented.
Corsaro and colleagues (2010) used a time-series analysis to evaluate the impact of the drug market intervention on crime in Nashville, Tenn. They examined criminal offense data, as well as calls for service count outcomes across three different Nashville geographic areas: the target area of McFerrin Park, the adjoining area, and the remainder of Nashville. Data from March 2005 through April 2010 was used in the study. Preintervention and postintervention means for the outcomes were examined, with the preintervention period designated as March 2005 to February 2008, and the postintervention period designated as March 2008 to April 2010. For the preintervention–postintervention analysis, a full-count regression model was used to control for seasonal and trend factors that might influence the outcomes.
Drug and narcotic incidents were measured as the monthly number of charges for illegal narcotics possession as well as drug equipment offenses; this included charges for drug paraphernalia possession and related equipment-based crimes. Data was obtained from the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR).
Type I UCR offenses were measured as the monthly number of homicides, forcible rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, larcenies, and motor vehicle thefts. Violent and property offenses were both included in this measure. Data was collected from the UCR, which classifies Part I offenses as serious felonies.
Calls for service were measured as the total number of monthly citizen-initiated requests for police assistance or investigation. Data was collected from the Davidson County (Tenn.) Emergency Communications Center.
After the program was finished, Corsaro and colleagues conducted an interview to supplement the study with a qualitative aspect of the program. The survey asked 44 residents of McFerrin Park if they believed that street drug markets were a major problem in their neighborhood. They were asked to rate the following two statements as “agree,” “neutral,” or “disagree”: “Street drug markets were a major problem in McFerrin Park a little over a year ago” and “Street drug markets are a major problem in McFerrin Park now (August 2009).”
The cost for the Drug Market Intervention investigation phase alone was estimated to be approximately $48,785. After an examination of the costs of this program, it was estimated to cost about $117 to handle each drug crime incident.
Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:Study 1
Corsaro, Nicholas, Rod Brunson, and Edmund McGarrell. 2010. “Evaluating a Policing Strategy Intended to Disrupt an Illicit Street-Level Drug Market.” Evaluation Review 34(6):513–48.