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Youthful Involvement in Illicit Street Drug Markets: Avenues for Prosperity or Roads to Crime? (From Youth in Transition: Perspectives on Research and Policy, P 319-327, 1996, Burt Galaway and Joe Hudson, eds. -- See NCJ-175419)

NCJ Number
P G Erickson
Date Published
9 pages
The rise and expansion of cocaine markets as a magnet for youthful entrepreneurs has been largely ignored in Canada, although a small but growing literature attests to this phenomenon in the United States; this paper reviews the relevant literature and considers its applicability to youth in transition in Canada, and preliminary findings are presented from a community-based Toronto study of illicit drug markets that appear to have a youthful component.
One purpose of this paper is to identify the prospects for a successful transition of youth to the world of legitimate work when lucrative illegitimate opportunities are available in their immediate social environment. The lessons from American research are that the crack market provides an easy-entry, highly profitable alternative, and is exploited by a substantial proportion of inner-city youth. The unanswered question from these studies is whether the appeal of crack selling is primarily to those youths with certain stable individual characteristics that predispose them to engage in serious delinquency and later crime, or whether the social circumstance of poverty and limited economic opportunities provide a lure for almost any youth in this environment. The Toronto East Downtown Study, which is still in progress, suggests that it would be a mistake to assume that U.S.-style drug markets and the concomitant violence cannot take root in areas of urban deprivation and high unemployment in Canada. Canada needs research to identify the parameters of this issue in large urban centers. The extent of youthful involvement in drug selling can be assessed through a variety of methods, including official record data of arrests and sentences, interviews with identified offenders, surveys of those still in school, and community-based studies that focus on high-risk environmental factors. 28 references