Open drug scenes and the merging of policing practice and research : a pracademic approach

Abstract: Policing research has had an upswing as the evidence-based policing movement has grown stronger and entered police practises worldwide. Within the evidence-based policing (EBP) approach, practically and academically skilled individuals, pracademics, have attracted attention as facilitating the merging of policing practice and research.Using principles from EBP, and with a special focus on translating between policing practice, policy and research, this thesis aims to explore the characteristics of illicit drug markets with a place-based focus and to link this to the enhancement of EBP in Sweden. The theoretical base of the thesis is drawn from disorganization theory, routine activity theory and situational action theory, and these theories are combined with empirical studies from the research field of drug markets.Drug markets are defined as open drug scenes (ODSs) in this pracademic thesis, which includes two empirical studies of patterns that characterize ODSs, one randomized controlled trial (RCT) of a law enforcement tactic at an ODS, and one case study of the impact of the pracademic research approach. The findings show that there are almost 50 ODSs in Stockholm County, which are characterized by patterns of crime concentration, a gun violence overlap, and associations with perceptions of unsafety. Three types of ODSs were identified, providing a basis for the tailoring of future interventions based on area characteristics, ODS stability, levels of violence, and gang activity. Micro places associated with ODSs and gun violence were found to be characterized by harsh social conditions and high levels of crime. A predictive index was created to forecast micro places at which gun violence may occur, and the prediction was enhanced when ODSs were included as predictive locations. The RCT, which was completed at a well-known ODS in the inner city of Stockholm, showed a slight but non-significant effect of the police conducting motivational talks with offenders, which gave rise to questions regarding the method’s effectiveness. The case study of the RCT process found frustration in police departments to be a possible door-opener for research. Ease of implementation was associated with the research having credibility among police officers, which was achieved by including the needs of practice in research questions and through the role played by the pracademic researcher.This thesis argues for making use of pracademics to bridge the research-practice gap, a focus on ODSs, and the testing and tracking of methods such as hot spots policing, with an emphasis on properly implemented evidence-based methods and on the goals of enforcement strategies as a means of improving the effectiveness of drug-market policing.