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Police Perceptions of Street-Level Narcotics Activity: Evaluating Drug Buys as a Research Tool

NCJ Number
American Journal of Police Volume: 13 Issue: 3 Dated: (1994) Pages: 37-58
Date Published
22 pages
The perceptions of undercover police officers regarding drug market activity in Jersey City, N.J. were examined to determine whether they are a reliable and valid method for measuring levels of drug activity in street drug markets.
The analysis focused on how well undercover officers can estimate the level of drug activity from a single buy attempt at a series of street-level drug markets. The research focused on 54 of 56 identified drug markets, which varied by size, type, and intensity of activity. Data came from official police department arrest and call statistics, physical observations of each market, a citizen survey, and a series of drug buy attempts by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) undercover agents. Data collection for the drug buy outcome measures entailed initial scouting of the market by Jersey City police narcotics squad members, followed by a buy attempt by a DEA agent. A total of 118 scouts were necessary to make buy attempts at the 54 markets; the number of scouts at a market ranged from 1 to 7. Results suggested that police officer assessments of drug activity based on observation are consistent with official measures of drug crime activity. Findings indicated that scholars should give more attention to the research possibilities offered by using police officers as observers. Tables, notes, and 16 references

Date Published: January 1, 1994