Drug offences

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Drug addicts can cause crime and other nuisance

Drug offences are the crime of the illegal manufacture, possession, use of or trade in (in particular recreational) drugs.


Drug offences, although by definition illegal, are in itself often not a major problem for society. Its spin-off effects (as mentioned under impacts) in contrast, are. As the problem of drug use is not within the control of the urban planner, in this Securipedia we will regard this security issue as a source of other security issues cat can be addressed and not as an issue in itself. This approach does not mean that offences stemming from drug use should not be be dealt with at the source, i.e. the drug production and distribution by organised crime, but only that this is beyond the capabilities of the urban planner.

This is why we will only discuss this security issue in a most general sense and why we will not be able to give effective measures against it.

Contributing circumstances

  • Affluence and deprivation extremes
  • Dominant social classes in an urban area - spatial concentrations of socially disadvantaged people can be a contributing factor.


Spin-off problems associated with drugs include[1]:

  • traffic congestion (due to roadside trading),
  • noise (from traffic and people),
  • disorderly conduct,
  • begging,
  • loitering,
  • vandalism,
  • littering (discarded drug paraphernalia),
  • criminal damage to property,
  • prostitution,[2]
  • robbery,
  • residential and commercial burglary,
  • theft from motor vehicles,
  • fencing stolen goods,
  • weapons offences, and
  • assault and homicide.

Social impacts

Known social impacts of drug offences include changing citizens perception of (in)security and fear of crime. This usually happens in a way that has an effect on the gap between "felt" and "factual" security.

Economic impact

Criminal offences generate direct costs in terms of preventive costs (e.g. security measures, insurance), as a result of physical damage, repairs, medical costs, mental harm, etc., and in response to the criminal offence for the authorities (e.g. the costs of detection and prevention, prosecution, support trial, etc.). In contrast to other types of crime, the damage of drug abuse for society as a whole is not so much the act itself, but is confined to the costs of prevention, detection and prosecution of drug offences.

Nevertheless, drug offences also lead to secondary economic effects such as costs incurred by unemployment, health problems and social services. According to a research study by The English Home Office, the cost of damage to damage to health and social functioning of heroin and/or crack users arising from use, is £5 bn[3]. Moreover, a large percentage of crime is drug-motivated. In England and Wales, for example, the Home Department estimated that around 50% of the total number of crimes are drug-motivated.[4].


There are no known measures available to the urban planner that are effective to mitigate drug offences. The measures at the disposal of the urban planner work on the spin-off problems. These can be found at the respective pages.

Next to this, the Dublin City Business Improvement District's Strategic Response Group[5] recommends the following:

  • Exploring the potential use of audio technology, complimenting CCTV with a public address function
  • Increasing public perceptions of safety through enhanced public lighting and 'predictive planning' to determine potential use of public spaces
  • Laneways should have double yellow lines (i.e. no parking) and have bins removed.

Footnotes and references

  1. from: http://www.popcenter.org/problems/drugdealing_openair/
  2. The links between sex and drug markets have been well-documented. May et al. (1999) (Full text) {Briefing Note} found that the majority of the sex-workers they interviewed were drug-dependent. See also the POP Guide on Street Prostitution. (Full text)
  3. Media/News > Fact Research Guide > Social and economic costs of drug use in the UK, http://www.tdpf.org.uk/MediaNews_FactResearchGuide_SocialAndEconomicCosts.htm
  4. Source: Media/News > Fact Research Guide > Social and economic costs of drug use in the UK http://www.tdpf.org.uk/MediaNews_FactResearchGuide_SocialAndEconomicCosts.htm
  5. http://www.dublincitybid.ie/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/193910_Dublin-City-Bid_final-2.pdf