There is little likelihood of learning more about the effectiveness of law enforcement in the near future. Answering important questions about the effectiveness of law enforcement requires reliable data on drug consumption, drug prices, the numbers of drug dealers that operate in cities, and the responses of dealers to law enforcement operations and opportunities in the legitimate labor market. As discussed in Chapter 3 and this chapter, such data are nonexistent at present. The committee has made recommendations about how this situation might be remedied. Carrying out these recommendations is a prerequisite to acquiring a better understanding of the effectiveness of law enforcement actions against retail drug markets.
In addition, it is necessary to explore alternative approaches to law enforcement. This should include investigating the effects of decreases as well as increases in law enforcement activity. Changes in drug enforcement policy should be designed so that their consequences can be measured and separated from the effects of other factors that influence drug markets. Arrangements must be made to acquire the data needed to evaluate the consequences of the actions that are taken. Such data is best acquired from state and local governments, supported with funding from the federal government. Agencies responsible for providing assistance to state and local jurisdictions should provide financial incentives for collecting data and for creating partnerships with researchers to evaluate outcomes.
The committee recommends that state and local governments be encouraged to explore and assess alternative approaches to law enforcement, including decreases as well as increases in the intensity of enforcement. Organizational arrangements should be made to ensure that the resulting changes in law enforcement measures and policy are well designed and that the data needed to evaluate their consequences are acquired and analyzed.
Under some circumstances, it may be ethical and appropriate to carry out randomized-design experiments in which different neighborhoods in a city are assigned randomly to increased or decreased enforcement regimes. For example, if the police do not have the resources needed to maintain equally high levels of enforcement in all drug-dealing neighborhoods, then some neighborhoods necessarily will receive less enforcement than others. It may then be appropriate to randomly assign varying levels of enforcement among neighborhoods.
Regardless of the designs of alternative approaches to enforcement, evaluation criteria should include levels of crime, violence, and community disruption as well as levels of drug consumption and numbers of drug dealers. Evaluation criteria may also include measures of the fair-