I occasionally write about changes in narcotics enforcement in this space because I think that it’s an important measure of overall enforcement levels and because drugs play a large role in citywide gun violence. I have written before about the drop in Schedule I and Schedule II enforcement since mid-2014 when NOPD folded its narcotics units into general assignment units, and now pot possession (a municipal offense) incidents are outpacing Schedule I & II incidents for the first time on record (data begins in 2011).
I used the city’s Electronic Police Report database to measure drug enforcement. A single incident can have multiple offenses attached to it, so I separately measured incidents in which a Schedule I or II offense was involved as well as those where a marijuana possession offense was involved. The rolling 365 day count for each is provided in the chart below:
Marijuana possession incidents are more frequent than Schedule I and II incidents these days, but it’s not because marijuana is being enforced more often. Rather the change is being driven by less Schedule I and II enforcement.
Another way of looking at the problem is to chart the percentage of all drug enforcement that was Schedule I and II versus marijuana possession versus other drugs. This is done on the below chart which shows Schedule I and II incidents made up nearly 70 percent of all narcotics incidents from 2011 through mid 2014 before falling to right around 40 percent today over the last year. Marijuana possession made up about half of all narcotics incidents in the last year and other drugs consistently comes in at around 10 percent.
This may be a relatively easy problem to diagnose, but it’s quite a difficult one to solve. Understanding that the problem exists, however, is the first step and hopefully this post helps makes the existence and scope of the problem fairly clear.