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Drug Control in Public Housing: The Impact of the Drug Elimination Program in the New York City Public Housing Authority

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Project Summary:

Since 1990, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has undertaken systematic efforts through its Drug Elimination Program (DEP) to reduce drug use, drug selling, and drug-related crimes. DEP aimed to reduce drug and crime problems through collaborations between resident organizations, NYCHA and other institutions to strengthen the structures of formal and informal control within public housing developments. We will conduct a systematic process and impact evaluation of DEP, using a conceptual framework based on the moderating effects of social capital and social control on drug control strategies, drug problems, and drug-related crimes. DEP was funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. Locally, the programs are collaborations between NYCHA management, tenant organizations and residents to devise and implement DEP activities. Funded activities include enhanced police protection, drug treatment, drug prevention programs, youth and gang outreach, and community organizing. Capital projects also are supported by DEP, such as lighting improvements and installation of CCTV surveillance. Programs have been present in more than 85% of NYCHA’s 344 sites for one or more years since the program’s inception in 1991. NYCHA has spent over $165 million on DEP over seven years. The research will proceed through three phases. Phase I will document and analyze DEP design and implementation. We will examine: 1) the types of drug and drug-related crime problems addressed in each project, 2) the nature of the collaboration between the tenant organizations, NYCHA and other institutions, and, 3) the proposed and implemented level of effort attached to each activity. We will then develop a taxonomy of DEP strategies, and compute the "dosages" of various activities at each participating project. Both dynamic (changes over time) and contemporaneous measures of tenant characteristics will be used to assess DEP design strategies. Phase II will assess the impacts on drug and crime indicators of the DEP interventions. We have integrated data from criminal justice, public health, and public housing agencies to construct detailed rates of drug and non-drug crimes in public housing developments and in the surrounding neighborhoods. These data also permit estimation of spatial diffusion and broader ecological models of crime and drug problems in and around public housing. In Phase III, we will estimate the effects of DEP on tenant social organization and formal/informal social control. We will select six sites for case studies by arraying projects along three axes: DEP efforts, impact estimates, and project structural and social characteristics. First, we will measure levels of involvement by examining records of program participation, and tenant attendance at project-wide tenant meetings. Second, we will interview tenant organizers, tenant leaders and residents about the perceived impact of DEP programs on drug-related activities within their developments. Results will be disseminated in two technical reports, one on the system wide analysis of impacts and a second on the case study analyses. Manuscripts will be submitted to journals. Non-technical reports to public housing administrators also will be disseminated.

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