Crime, Arrests, and Law Enforcement

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Police encounters don't have to end in an arrest, or worse. The organization Flex Your Rights has put together a comprehensive guide for citizens on how to properly handle encounters with law enforcement, preserving both personal and public safety as well as one's civil rights. Learn more at their website,

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21. Officers Employed by DEA, FBI, and BOP

"In 2008, DOJ agencies employed about 40,000 (or 33%) of all full-time federal officers with arrest and firearm authority in the United States. The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) was the largest DOJ employer of federal officers and the second largest employer of federal officers overall. The BOP employed nearly 17,000 correctional officers and other staff who deal directly with inmates, such as correctional counselors and captains, to maintain the security of the federal prison system. This was about 1,600 (or 11%) more officers than in 2004. In September 2008, BOP facilities had about 165,000 inmates in custody, compared to about 153,000 inmates in 2004.
"The second largest DOJ agency in 2008 was the FBI, which employed 12,760 full-time personnel with arrest and firearm authority. This was about 500 (or 4%) more officers than in 2004. Except for 230 FBI police officers, the FBI total consisted of special agents responsible for criminal investigation and enforcement.
"In addition to the BOP and the FBI, three other major law enforcement agencies operated within DOJ during 2008: The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) (4,308 officers in 2008, down 2% from 2004), the U.S. Marshals Service (3,313 officers, up 2%), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) (2,541 officers, up 7%)."

Reaves, Brian, "Federal Law Enforcement Officers, 2008" (Washington, DC: USDOJ, Bureau of Justice Statistics, June 2012), NCJ238250, p. 3.

22. NY Stop-and-Frisk

"In 70 out of 76 precincts, black and Latino New Yorkers accounted for more than 50 percent of stops, and in 33 precincts they accounted for more than 90 percent of stops. In the 10 precincts with the lowest black and Latino populations (such as the 6th Precinct in Greenwich Village), blacks and Latinos accounted for more than 70 percent of stops in six of those precincts."

"Stop-and-Frisk 2011: NYCLU Briefing," New York Civil Liberties Union (New York, NY: American Civil Liberties Union of New York State, May 9, 2012), p. 2.

23. Cross Border Drug Smuggling Tunnels Between Mexico and the US

"Illicit cross-border tunnels allow smugglers to move marijuana and, to a lesser extent, other drugs, weapons, currency, people, and other contraband illegally across the border. More than 170 illicit crossborder tunnels have been discovered in the United States since 1990.53 These tunnels have been found near POEs, where traffic and noise conceal tunneling activities.
"CBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have delineated four types of cross-border
tunnels. The type of tunnel constructed depends heavily on the region’s soil.54
"• Rudimentary tunnels are crudely constructed and travel a short distance. Shoring, machinery, electrical power, and ventilation are not used in their construction.
"• Interconnecting tunnels link at least one purpose-built section to preexisting underground infrastructure. The purpose-built section is usually crudely constructed.
"• Sophisticated tunnels may use shoring, ventilation, electricity, railroads, or water pumps, and can move large quantities of drugs, humans, currency, or firearms across the border. They typically link to private homes or warehouses in the United States and Mexico, even over long distances.
"• A fourth type of tunnel has been identified within the past five years in which traffickers employ horizontal directional-drilling equipment to construct a small-diameter tunnel in as little as two weeks. Attempts to construct these tunnels are infrequent.
"Marijuana comprises the overwhelming majority of illicit drug seizures from tunnels. Smuggling cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine through POEs is easier than moving marijuana due to the relatively smaller size of shipments."

National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy, Executive Office of the President, Office of National Drug Control Policy, Washington, DC. July 2016, p. 10.

24. NY Stop-and-Frisk of Young Black and Latino Men

"Young black and Latino men were the targets of a hugely disproportionate number of stops. Though they account for only 4.7 percent of the city’s population, black and Latino males between the ages of 14 and 24 accounted for 41.6 percent of stops in 2011. The number of stops of young black men exceeded the entire city population of young black men (168,126 as compared to 158,406). Ninety percent of young black and Latino men stopped were innocent."

"Stop-and-Frisk 2011: NYCLU Briefing," New York Civil Liberties Union (New York, NY: American Civil Liberties Union of New York State, May 9, 2012), p. 2.

25. NY Stop-and-Frisk of Innocent People

"Of the 685,724 stops in 2011, 605,328 were of people who had engaged in no unlawful behavior as evidenced by the fact they were not issued a summons nor arrested. Of those, 310,390 were black (53.1 percent), 197,251 Latino (33.7 percent), and 53,726 white (9.2 percent). Young black and Latino males bore the brunt of these stops, accounting for 242,317 stops of innocent people (42.9 percent)."

"Stop-and-Frisk 2011: NYCLU Briefing," New York Civil Liberties Union (New York, NY: American Civil Liberties Union of New York State, May 9, 2012), p. 15.

26. Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations

"Today Mexico is a major producer and supplier to the U.S. market of heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana and the major transit country for cocaine sold in the United States. According to the Department of State’s 2009 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, as much as 90% of the cocaine entering the United States now transits through Mexico. A small number of Mexican DTOs control the most significant drug distribution operations along the Southwest border. The criminal activities of these Mexican DTOs reach well beyond the towns and cities of the border, extending along drug trafficking routes into cities across the United States. The Mexican DTOs have exhibited many characteristics of organized crime such as being organized in distinct cells and controlling subordinate cells that operate throughout the United States.1"

Beittel, June S., "Mexico's Drug-Related Violence," Congressional Research Service (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, May 27, 2009), p. 7.
citing: United States Department of State, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, "International Narcotics Control Strategy Report: Volume I, Drug and Chemical Control," (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of State: March 2009), p. 414.
and Cook, Colleen W., "Mexico's Drug Cartels," Congressional Research Service (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, October 16, 2007), p. 5.

27. Violent Crime and Substance Use

"Contrary to conventional wisdom and popular myth, alcohol is more tightly linked with more violent crimes than crack, cocaine, heroin or any other illegal drug. In state prisons, 21 percent of inmates in prison for violent crimes were under the influence of alcohol--and no other substance--when they committed their crime; in contrast, at the time of their crimes, only three percent of violent offenders were under the influence of cocaine or crack alone, only one percent under the influence of heroin alone."

Califano, Joseph, Behind Bars: Substance Abuse and America's Prison Population, Forward by Joseph Califano, The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (1998).

28. Collateral Consequences: Drivers License Revocation As a Result of Conviction on Drug Charges

"In the Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriation Act of 1992,100 Congress required the withholding of ten percent of certain federal highway funds unless a state either: 1) enacts and enforces a law revoking or suspending for at least six months the driver's license of an individual who is convicted of any drug offense; or 2) the governor submits written certification to the Secretary of the Department of Transportation that he or she opposes the revocation/suspension, and that the state legislature has adopted a resolution expressing its opposition to this law.l01 This law defines "drug offense" as any criminal offense involving the possession, distribution, manufacture, cultivation, sale, transfer, or the attempt or conspiracy to possess, distribute, manufacture, cultivate, sell, or transfer any substance (the possession of which is prohibited by the Controlled Substances Act) or the operation of a motor vehicle under the influence of such a substance.102
"Thus, unless states formally express their opposition to the federal law, they must suspend or revoke for at least six months the driver's license of anyone convicted of a drug offense.103 If they do express their opposition, they are free to limit suspension or revocation only to offenses involving driving or other more limited categories of offenses. Twenty-three states automatically suspend or revoke drivers' licenses for conviction of some or all drug offenses, in addition to driving-related offenses;104 the other twenty-seven states do not."

Mukamal, Debbie A. and Samuels, Paul N., "Statutory Limitations on Civil Rights of People with Criminal Records." Fordham Urban Law Journal (New York, NY: Fordham University, 2002) Volume 30, Issue 5, p. 1515.

29. Federal Weed and Seed Initiatives

"The Weed and Seed (W&S) strategy was launched more than 18 years ago by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) as a community-based, comprehensive, multiagency approach to law enforcement, crime prevention, and community revitalization in high-crime neighborhoods. Since its start in three demonstration sites, W&S initiatives have been established in hundreds of neighborhoods nationwide. In early 2010, 256 sites were active in 46 states and 2 territories. Beginning around 2007, W&S funding has been limited to 5 years for a given site, with a maximum of $1 million over that time."

Trudeau, James; Barrick, Kelle; Williams, Jason, "Independent Evaluation of the National Weed and Seed Strategy," Office of Justice Programs, Community Capacity Development Office (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, September 2010), p. 2.

30. Impact of Medical Marijuana Laws on Crime Rates

"The central finding gleaned from the present study was that MML is not predictive of higher crime rates and may be related to reductions in rates of homicide and assault. Interestingly, robbery and burglary rates were unaffected by medicinal marijuana legislation, which runs counter to the claim that dispensaries and grow houses lead to an increase in victimization due to the opportunity structures linked to the amount of drugs and cash that are present. Although, this is in line with prior research suggesting that medical marijuana dispensaries may actually reduce crime in the immediate vicinity [8]."

Robert G. Morris, Michael TenEyck, JC Barnes, and Tomislav V. Kovandzic, "The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws On Crime: Evidence From State Panel Data, 1990-2006," PLoS ONE 9(3): e92816. March 2014. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092816

31. Effect of Medical Marijuana Legalization On Crime Rates

"In sum, these findings run counter to arguments suggesting the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes poses a danger to public health in terms of exposure to violent crime and property crimes. To be sure, medical marijuana laws were not found to have a crime exacerbating effect on any of the seven crime types. On the contrary, our findings indicated that MML precedes a reduction in homicide and assault. While it is important to remain cautious when interpreting these findings as evidence that MML reduces crime, these results do fall in line with recent evidence [29] and they conform to the longstanding notion that marijuana legalization may lead to a reduction in alcohol use due to individuals substituting marijuana for alcohol [see generally 29, 30]. Given the relationship between alcohol and violent crime [31], it may turn out that substituting marijuana for alcohol leads to minor reductions in violent crimes that can be detected at the state level. That said, it also remains possible that these associations are statistical artifacts (recall that only the homicide effect holds up when a Bonferroni correction is made)."

Robert G. Morris, Michael TenEyck, JC Barnes, and Tomislav V. Kovandzic, "The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws On Crime: Evidence From State Panel Data, 1990-2006," PLoS ONE 9(3): e92816. March 2014. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092816

32. Effect Of Medical Marijuana Legalization On Crime Rates

"Given that the current results failed to uncover a crime exacerbating effect attributable to MML, it is important to examine the findings with a critical eye. While we report no positive association between MML and any crime type, this does not prove MML has no effect on crime (or even that it reduces crime). It may be the case that an omitted variable, or set of variables, has confounded the associations and masked the true positive effect of MML on crime. If this were the case, such a variable would need to be something that was restricted to the states that have passed MML, it would need to have emerged in close temporal proximity to the passage of MML in all of those states (all of which had different dates of passage for the marijuana law), and it would need to be something that decreased crime to such an extent that it ‘‘masked’’ the true positive effect of MML (i.e., it must be something that has an opposite sign effect between MML [e.g., a positive correlation] and crime [e.g., a negative correlation]). Perhaps the more likely explanation of the current findings is that MML laws reflect behaviors and attitudes that have been established in the local communities. If these attitudes and behaviors reflect a more tolerant approach to one another’s personal rights, we are unlikely to expect an increase in crime and might even anticipate a slight reduction in personal crimes."

Robert G. Morris, Michael TenEyck, JC Barnes, and Tomislav V. Kovandzic, "The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws On Crime: Evidence From State Panel Data, 1990-2006," PLoS ONE 9(3): e92816. March 2014. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092816

33. Substance Abuse Treatment and Crime Rates

"Increases in admissions to substance abuse treatment are associated with reductions in crime rates. Admissions to drug treatment increased 37.4 percent and federal spending on drug treatment increased 14.6 percent from 1995 to 2005. During the same period, violent crime fell 31.5 percent. Maryland experienced decreases in crime when jurisdictions increased the number of people sent to drug treatment."

Justice Policy Institute, "Substance Abuse Treatment and Public Safety," (Washington, DC: January 2008), p. 1.

34. Sheriff's Offices with Drug Enforcement Units

"Nine in 10 sheriffs' offices regularly performed drug enforcement functions (table 29). Sheriffs' offices with drug enforcement responsibilities employed 90% of all local police officers.
"Thirty-six percent of sheriffs’ offices operated a special unit for drug enforcement with one or more officers assigned full-time (table 30). A majority of sheriffs' offices serving a population of 250,000 or more residents had a fulltime drug enforcement unit. There were an estimated 4,031 officers assigned full time to drug enforcement units nationwide. The average number of officers assigned ranged from 27 in jurisdictions with 1 million or more residents to 2 in those with fewer than 50,000 residents."

Hickman, Matthew J.. and Reaves, Brian A., "Sheriffs' Offices 2003" (Washington, DC: USDOJ, Bureau of Justice Statistics, May 2006), NCJ 211361. p. 15.

35. Accomplishments Claimed by HIDTA Funded Initiatives

"In 2014, HIDTA-funded initiatives disrupted or dismantled 2,877 drug trafficking organizations, removing significant quantities of drugs from the market and seizing over $1.1 billion in cash and noncash assets from drug traffickers.† In addition, law enforcement has made strides against Consolidated Priority Organization Target (CPOT) organizations. In Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015, OCDETF member agencies initiated 1,979 OCDETF investigations, and they dismantled 233 and disrupted 438 CPOT-linked drug trafficking organizations."

2016 National Drug Control Strategy, Executive Office of the President, Office of National Drug Control Policy, January 2017, p. 39.

36. Sheriffs' Officers Assigned to Drug Task Forces

"In 2003 an estimated 47% of sheriffs' offices had one or more officers assigned full time to a multi-agency drug enforcement task force (table 31), including 89% of sheriffs' offices serving 1 million or more residents. About 71% of all officers worked for a department that assigned officers to a drug task force.
"Nationwide, an estimated 3,477 officers were assigned full time to a drug task force. The average number assigned full time ranged from 9 in sheriffs' offices serving a population of 1 million or more to 1 in those serving fewer than 10,000 residents."

Hickman, Matthew J. and Reaves, Brian A., "Sheriffs' Offices 2003" (Washington, DC: USDOJ, Bureau of Justice Statistics, May 2006), NCJ 211361.

37. Substance Use and Nonfatal Violent Victimization

"Juveniles using drugs or alcohol committed 1 in 10 of the nonfatal violent victimizations against older teens. This was 2-1/2 times higher than the percentage of victimizations against younger teens perceived to be committed by a juvenile who was using drugs or alcohol.
"Younger teens were more likely than older teens to report that their juvenile offender was not using drugs or alcohol. In about 4 in 10 victimizations against younger and older teens committed by juveniles, the victim could not ascertain whether or not the offender was using drugs or alcohol."

Baum, Katrina, PhD, "Juvenile Victimization and Offending, 1993-2003" (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Aug. 2005), p. 8.

38. Failure of Law Enforcement Interventions

"Based on the available English language scientific evidence, the results of this systematic review suggest that an increase in drug law enforcement interventions to disrupt drug markets is unlikely to reduce drug market violence. Instead, from an evidence-based public policy perspective and based on several decades of available data, the existing scientific evidence suggests drug law enforcement contributes to gun violence and high homicide rates and that increasingly sophisticated methods of disrupting organizations involved in drug distribution could paradoxically increase violence. In this context, and since drug prohibition has not achieved its stated goals of reducing drug supply, alternative regulatory models for drug control will be required if drug market violence is to be substantially reduced."

Werb, Dan; Rowell, Greg; Guyatt, Gordond; Kerr, Thomas; Montaner, Julioa; Wood, Evan, "Effect of drug law enforcement on drug market violence: A systemic review," International Journal of Drug Policy (London, United Kingdom: International Harm Reduction Association: March 2011) Vol. 22, Issue 2, p. 92.

39. Impact Of Good Samaritan Laws On Arrests

"Ninety-three percent of police respondents had attended a serious opioid overdose (defined in the survey) in their career, with 64 % having attended one in the past year. While 77 % of officers felt it was important they were at the scene of an overdose to protect medical personnel, a minority, 34 %, indicated it was important they were present for the purpose of enforcing laws. Arrest during the last overdose officers encountered was rare, with only 1 % of overdose victims and 1 % of bystanders being arrested. In cases in which no arrest was made, 25 % reported confiscating drugs or paraphernalia.
"The majority, 62 %, indicated the law would not change their behavior at a future overdose because they would not have arrested anyone at the scene of an overdose anyway. Smaller proportions indicated they would be less likely to arrest (14 %), did not know what they would do (20 %), or would continue to arrest people at the scene of an overdose (4 %)."

Banta-Green C J, Beletsky L, Schoeppe JA, Coffin PO, Kuszler PC. Police officers’ and paramedics' experiences with overdose and their knowledge and opinions of Washington State's drug overdose-naloxone-Good Samaritan law. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine. 2013;90(6):1102-;11.

40. 911 Calls, Good Samaritan Laws, And Opiate Overdoses

"Among heroin users, research indicates fear of police response as the most common barrier to not calling 911 during overdoses.12,13 In a Baltimore study, 37 % of injection drug users who did not call 911 during an overdose endorsed concerns about police as the most important reason they did not call.13 Several states have enacted laws, commonly called Good Samaritan laws, to encourage calling 911 during overdoses on controlled substances; these laws are in part modeled on college campus alcohol Good Samaritan policies.14 Overdose Good Samaritan laws had been adopted in ten states as of the end of 2012, but they have not yet been evaluated.15 Generally, the laws include provisions that provide immunity from criminal prosecution for drug possession to overdose victims and to those who seek medical aid. Eight states have passed laws that ease access to take-home-naloxone by allowing the prescription of naloxone (an opioid antagonist or antidote) to persons at risk for having or witnessing an overdose, enabling bystanders to quickly respond in the event of an overdose.3,15 Previous research suggests that police are sometimes under-informed, and often ambivalent to public health laws, especially those based in a risk reduction framework.16,17"

Banta-Green C J, Beletsky L, Schoeppe JA, Coffin PO, Kuszler PC. Police officers’ and paramedics' experiences with overdose and their knowledge and opinions of Washington State's drug overdose-naloxone-Good Samaritan law. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine. 2013;90(6):1102-;11.