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Informing America’s Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don’t Know Keeps Hurting Us
merited the existence of such organizations in the crack cocaine trade in New York.
Freelancing tends to be the most visible, disruptive, and violent form of market organization. Socially bonded organizations are based on social ties, such as kinship, ethnicity, and neighborhood. They are held together by personal relationships, are often discreet about their sales practices (for example, they tend not to advertise drugs openly in the street), and are often less violent and disruptive to their communities than are other types of drug-dealing organizations. Some socially bonded organizations provide substantial financial support to the neighborhoods in which they operate. Thus, these organizations are more likely to be tolerated or even supported by neighborhood residents (Curtis and Wendel, 1999). According to Curtis and Wendel (1999, 2000), corporate-style businesses tend to be more visible, violent, and disruptive than are socially bonded ones. Corporate-style organizations are large and hierarchical, often with few opportunities for advancement for street-level employees. The separation of ownership and labor in corporate-style organizations can create serious tensions among employees (Curtis and Wendel, 1999). In discussing implications of different forms of social organization for the effectiveness of efforts by local police to disrupt retail markets and arrest their participants, Curtis and Wendel (2000) conclude that police operations against corporate-style businesses are most likely to succeed. Operations against socially bonded businesses are least likely to succeed.
The implications of different forms of social organization for economic analysis have not been investigated and are uncertain. It is possible though unverified that members of socially bonded organizations are less likely than are freelancers or lower-level corporate employees to respond to legitimate employment opportunities. It is also possible that differently organized businesses have different policies on drug prices and purity. For example, a socially bonded business that sells mainly to residents of the neighborhood in which its members live may charge less or provide higher-quality drugs than does a corporate-style business that is selling to strangers and feels no special ties to the communities in which it operates. However, the committee is unaware of the existence of any research on the relations, if any, among social organization, prices, and purity.
Two studies describe ways that drug markets have changed in response to increased police pressure (National Development and Research Institutes, 1998; Curtis and Wendel, 1999). In New York, there appears to be evidence of geographic substitution. For example, some drug sellers now operate delivery services that take orders by telephone and deliver drugs to customers’ homes or offices. Other businesses allow customers to contact sellers by beeper and then arrange discreet meetings over the telephone. Delivery and beeper services operate out of sight and reduce