Drug Markets and Urban Violence: Can tackling one reduce the other?

The Report explores the relationship between urban violence and drug trafficking, concluding that: 1) the majority of urban violence, as seen in those Latin American and Caribbean cities which are most severely affected, is related to trafficking, rather than the use of illicit drugs; 2) the link between drug markets and urban violence depends on the level and distribution of poverty and; 3) State action itself can be a major contributor or cause of urban violence. All in all, these suggest that drug control models based on repression need, at least, reevaluation.

One of the most worrying aspects of the global trade in illicit drugs is the link to urban violence. This is a leading cause of death in many countries. It is also linked to other harms, such as morbidity, reductions in economic growth and the opportunity costs of investments in incarceration, police forces and private security which attempt to control violence. This Report builds on other Beckley Foundation Drug Policy Programme publications that have looked at issues of crime prevention, treatment and drug markets (Stevens, Hallam, & Trace, 2006; Stevens, Trace, & BewleyTaylor, 2005; Wilson & Stevens, 2008). Here we look specifically at the strength of the link between drug markets and urban violence, and policies and tactics that can be used to reduce this link.