The Impact Of Heroin Prices On Robbery Trends

3197 words - 13 pages

The Impact of Heroin Prices on Robbery Trends

Introduction

In Australia, as in other western countries, illicit drug users
often resort to crime in order to fund their habit. Heroin dependence
has been a major factor in the escalation of robbery over the past
four decades and there is a strong link between the rising price of
heroin and increase in property crime[1]. Research has revealed that
drug treatment, such as methadone clinics, has proved effective in
decreasing the robbery rate; however there is a lack of literature on
whether a decrease in the price of heroin would cause this decline. If
the Australian Government were to legalise heroin, pure heroin would
be available at a very low price in order to cut out the black market.[2]
Heroin would thus decrease in price by approximately 50 per cent.[3]
However, there is a lack of information available on whether this
price decrease would subsequently reduce the property crime rate.

Therefore, this literature review will be focused on four areas:

1. The link between drugs and crime

2. Why dependent heroin users commit crimes

3. The price of heroin and its effect on the crime rate

4. The effect that lower heroin prices would have on the crime rate

1. The link between drugs and crime

There is an abundance of evidence which clearly reveals that dependent
drug use and crime are causally connected. Maher et al states that in
a sample of 202 heroin users, 70 per cent indicated that they derived
a portion of their income from acquisitive property crime, which
includes burglary, shoplifting and un-armed street robberies. [4]
Although acquisitive property crime came second to the drug market in
terms of average weekly wage, the average income was $782 per week,
with an annual average income of approximately $40,664.[5] The NSW
Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) further verify this
link between drugs and property crime, estimating that the number of
heroin users in Australia has increased from approximately 670 in 1967
to about 67,000 in 1997. Consequently, as Figure 1 reveals, the
robbery rate has increased significantly from 1966.[6]

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BOCSAR has also studied other possible causes for this increase in
robbery, such as an increase in male unemployment. However, while
robbery rates increased sharply from 1996, male unemployment
decreased; hence male unemployment was not a determinative factor.
BOCSAR thus concluded that an increase in heroin dependence (revealed
by an increase in heroin overdose) has a major impact upon the
increase of robbery. Other studies that further verify this link
between drugs and crime include Mukherjee, Jorgensen,[7] McBride and
McCoy[8] and The Official Salvation Army Response to Proposed Heroin
Trials.[9] Therefore, since the correlation of high levels...

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