Policing Australia's 'Heroin Drought' Using an Agent-Based Model to Simulate Alternative Outcomes

Anne Dray, Lorraine Mazerolle, Pascal Perez, Alison Ritter

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Our paper examines how street-level drug markets adapt to a macro-level disruption to the supply of heroin, under three experimental conditions of street-level drug law enforcement: random patrol, hot-spot policing and problem-orientated policing. We utilize an agent-based model to explore the relative impact of abstractions of these three law enforcement strategies after simulating an 'external shock' to the supply of heroin to the street-level drug market. We use 3 years of data, which include the period of the 'heroin drought' in Melbourne (Australia) that commenced in late 2000 and early 2001, to measure changes in a selected range of crime and harm indicators under the three policing conditions. Our results show that macro-level disruptions to drug supply have a limited impact on street-level market dynamics when there is a ready replacement drug. By contrast, street-level police interventions are shown to vary in their capacity to alter drug market dynamics. Importantly, our laboratory abstraction of problem-orientated policing is shown to be the optimal strategy to disrupt street-level injecting-drug markets, reduce crimes and minimize harm, regardless of the type of drug being supplied to the market.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)267-287
    JournalJournal of Experimental Criminology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


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