U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Uses and Abuses of Drug Law Enforcement Statistics

NCJ Number
G Wardlaw; H Deane
P Wilson
Date Published
4 pages
One of the major problems in assessing law enforcement initiatives in drug enforcement is the lack of reliable statistics.
Often enforcement statistics are used in a biased and unscientific manner to illustrate particular points of view in the drug debate. The increase in drug arrests may be a measure of police activity and may bear no direct relation to changes in the magnitude of drug use. The more effort police devote to drugs, the more drug offenses that will be detected. The number of drug offenses recorded needs to be placed in proportion to the size of the population to reflect population growth. Although the Australian police force has targeted arresting drug dealers, most of the arrests still are for drug users and possession. Since these arrests are untargeted, geographically widespread, and constitute a small portion of the drug users, it is unlikely that this pattern of drug law enforcement can have much impact on the amount of illegal drug use in Australia. Drug enforcement statistics reveal that the majority of offenses are related to cannabis and not to heroin or cocaine except in Victoria where a significant proportion of the offenses involve heroin. The mandate of special organizations to target drug traffickers has resulted in the successful prosecution of some major traffickers. These arrests probably have little impact on levels of illegal drug use because these individuals are easily replaced in their organizations or their organizations are easily replaced by others. The range and quality of data collected on illegal drug use and strategies to control it must be improved. This would enable an informed debate on drug issues and proper evaluation of law enforcement policies. Information from studies and comprehensive data collected from drug treatment programs would allow drug control policies to be constructed on a firm and factual base which could be realistically evaluated. 2 figures, 3 tables.


No download available