FIGURE A.6 Median prices of cocaine base in Washington, D.C., estimated from Drug Enforcement Agency and Metropolitan Police of the District of Columbia data.

DEA price estimate decreased by 47 percent, whereas the MPDC estimate decreased by only 9 percent.

Conversations with DEA officials have provided a possible explanation for the price differences displayed in Figure A.6. DEA officials believe that agents of the MPDC have better knowledge of local drug markets and greater personal familiarity with retail dealers than do agents of the DEA. Therefore, agents of the MPDC are thought to be able to bargain for lower retail prices than can agents of the DEA. In addition, DEA officials believe that the MPDC has a lower budget for drug purchases than does the DEA, thereby giving MPDC agents a stronger incentive to obtain a low price.

The finding that the DEA and MPDC data lead to different models for the price of cocaine base implies that the DEA and MPDC data on prices of cocaine base cannot both be representative of true market conditions. The data do not provide evidence on whether prices estimated from either data set accurately represent true market conditions. It is possible that one dataset gives a good approximation of true market conditions, whereas the other does not. It is also possible that neither dataset accurately represents true market conditions. Without evidence on this matter, the STRIDE data cannot be relied on to provide accurate estimates of cocaine prices and price changes.

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