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How new ways of spatial analysis can improve the geographical understanding of illegal drug markets and the distribution of drug-related crime

7 March 2012

Lusine Tarkhanyan

This research is being funded by the Armenian government. It is proposed (Eck, 1994) that the selling of illicit drugs on streets may have in common some of the same marketing principles as the retail of legal commodities: the main aim of both activities is to attract and supply products to customers, and to make a profit. From the marketing perspective, when deciding to locate stores, the retailer’s goal emphasises the importance of spatial location as a primary factor which brings potential sellers and customers together. While the decision making process is unlikely to be quite so explicit, similar factors may influence the location of drug markets (Eck, 1994, Rengert et al, 2005).

An additional aim of illegal retail is to stay unnoticed and avoid legal prosecution. Thus the importance of “place” may be even more paramount in the case of illegal drug markets. Following from this rationale, I am interested in exploring where drug dealers are known to sell drugs, and the extent to which and in what ways these places differ from those places that they do not. 

In particular, I am interested in examining whether the types of places at which drugs are sold have the sorts of topological or street network characteristics of places which offer good retail potential.  It is not suggested that drug dealers might engage in such analysis themselves when deciding where to sell drugs, but they may be able to identify such places intuitively.  Regardless, the question is an empirical one that might inform police practice and academic research alike.