Drug Involvement, Lifestyles, and Criminal Activities among Probationers

By De Li, Spencer; Priu, Heidi D. et al. | Journal of Drug Issues, Summer 2000 | Go to article overview

Drug Involvement, Lifestyles, and Criminal Activities among Probationers


De Li, Spencer, Priu, Heidi D., MacKenzie, Doris L., Journal of Drug Issues


The dynamic relationships among drug use, drug dealing, lifestyles, and crime were examined by interviewing probationers in three Northern Virginia counties. Results of the interviews showed that drug dealing had a positive effect on both property crime and violent crime while drug use had a significant effect only on property crime. It was also found that a significant numberof drug offenders were involved in both the use and sale of drugs, which, in essence, had a powerful effect on other types of criminal activities. Additionally, results of the study revealed that the impact of drug use and drug dealing on crime was modified by individual lifestyles. Theoretical and policy implications of these findings are discussed.

INTRODUCTION

The connection between drug involvement and crime has been widely debated. Although an extensive amount of research has been conducted on this relationship, the impact of drug dealing on crime has been insufficiently investigated. Drawing on data collected from probationers in three Northern Virginia counties, this study examines the dynamic relationships among drug use, drug dealing, and crime. Our objective is not only to test how drug use and drug dealing affect crime, but also to investigate how the lifestyles of drug offenders modify the interrelationships among use, dealing, and crime. Considerable research has been undertaken to determine the effects of drug use on crime. The current study focuses on how drug dealing increases the likelihood of engaging in crime and whether the offending patterns of drug users and drug dealers vary according to different lifestyles.

This research has important policy implications. If drug dealers are found to be more likely than drug users to engage in criminal activities, crime control policies aimed at reducing drug-related crimes would be more feasible if prioritized to target offenders who are involved in drug sales. Additionally, if drug offenders' lifestyles are found to be predictors of criminal involvement, specific treatment and prevention programs could be created to target drug offenders who commit crimes due to their deviant lifestyles.

THE DRUG-CRIME CONNECTION

Although previous research has shown a positive correlation between drugs and crime, the extent of this relationship is unclear. Some drug users are regularly involved in crime while others are not. Some drug users are violent while others are very passive. Much of the research in this area has confirmed a connection between drug involvement and crime. Explanations for this relationship vary widely, and many questions still remain. Do drug users commit property crimes to support their drug habits? Or are drug users simply uninhibited during periods of high drug use? On the other hand, could drug dealing be the real culprit, with crime resulting simply as a means to protect business interests? Prior research has explored all of these questions, but precise answers have yet to be provided.

While drug use has been identified as a correlate of both property crime and violent crime (Cantor, 1999; Chaiken & Chaiken, 1982; Collins & Bailey, 1987), its effect on property crime appears to be more salient. Expressing the prevailing view concerning drug use and crime, Gandossy, Williams, Cohen, and Harwood ( 1980) argue that drug users often commit property crimes to acquire money to support their addictive habits. Several studies have found empirical evidence supporting this argument. For example, Inciardi (1979) and his colleagues interviewed 356 heroin users, and found that over 90% of these users committed property crimes to support their drug habits. McGlothlin, Anglin and Wilson (1978) came to similar conclusions in their study of persons admitted to the California Civil Addicts Program. They found that during the periods of drug addiction, individuals were more likely to commit crimes, to acquire money illegitimately, and to be arrested for property crimes than during periods of less frequent use. …

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