By Jessica Saunders, Allison J. Ober, Beau Kilmer, Sarah Michal Greathouse for RAND. Overt drug markets are often associated with violence and property crime, as well as lower quality of life for nearby residents. Despite the considerable strain these markets can place on communities, efforts to close them can disrupt the delicate relationship between those who live in these communities and the criminal justice agencies charged with protecting them. In 2010, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) funded Michigan State University (MSU) to train a cohort of seven jurisdictions to implement a community-based strategy that uses focused deterrence, community engagement, and incapacitation to reduce the crime and disorder associated with overt drug markets. The strategy was inspired by the High Point Drug Market Intervention and RAND was selected by the National Institute of Justice to evaluate these efforts. This process evaluation describes how well the seven sites adhered to the BJA model they were exposed to during the trainings, the barriers they encountered, and lessons learned from their experiences.
Successful Implementation Requires Strong Support from Law Enforcement and Prosecutors
- Three sites did not make it to the call-in phase, with the common theme a lack of support at the highest levels of police departments or prosecutor’s offices or the loss of initial support from leaders at these key agencies over time.
- An initial commitment that is not sustained, or lack of strong commitment from one of these entities, may impede full implementation of the strategy.
Team Members Should Have a Good Understanding of the Strategy Before Beginning the Process
- A full understanding of the strategy from the outset will prevent avoidable missteps and will likely improve fidelity to the model.
Team Turnover Should Be Expected and Addressed in Advance
- Most of the teams experienced some turnover in the core membership, and in some cases, this put an end to the intervention.
- Several team members mentioned that it was important to have multiple people from each sector familiar with the project in case someone changes positions.
If Sites Plan to Track Dealers, an Action Plan Should Be Developed Prior to the Call-In
- Some sites did not develop specific systems for tracking A-listers and B-listers, either from the outset or at all. This information is important for understanding the causal mechanisms underlying observed changes, keeping track of program costs, and successfully delivering on the deterrence message.
- Some sites were not able to keep careful track of whether B-listers were complying with the terms of program, and some lacked specific requirements for B-lister participation.