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Mark Kleiman Comments on Drugs, Violence, and Putting Cartels Out of Business

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2012
3 pages
This video and its transcript cover an interview with Mark Kleiman - professor of public policy at UCLA and a former visiting fellow at the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) - regarding the relationship between drug enforcement and violent crime and the theories upon which he based his research.
He notes that the main approach for reducing drug abuse is to make a drug illegal. This makes them expensive and difficult to obtain compared to the cost and access to any legal drug. It is evident that law enforcement will not significantly reduce drug abuse. The inevitable results of prohibiting a drug that a lot of people want is the creation of a large illicit market accompanied by crime, corruption, and violence. The attraction of money from drug sales and the desire to avoid the severe penalties associated with convictions for drug trafficking promote violence as a byproduct of illegal drugs. Kleiman argues that the primary role of law enforcement in relation to the illicit drug market is to protect people from the violence linked to the drug market. The theories on which he bases his research, draw on two social scientific traditions. One tradition involves behavioral economics, which pertains to structuring environments and law enforcement policies so that desirable behaviors provide the most benefits to the actor, taking into account that not all behavior is rational. The second theory underlying the research is game theory. This theory states that if a lot of people are breaking the rules, which is the case with the consumption of illegal drugs, the chance of any one person being caught are reduced. Concentrating efforts on a targeted population increases the credibility of enforcement for larger segments.

Date Published: April 1, 2012