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Exploring the Influence of Drug Trafficking Gangs on Overdose Deaths in the Largest Narcotics Market in the Eastern United States

1
Department of Criminal Justice, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122, USA
2
Philadelphia Regional Office, Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, Philadelphia, PA 19153, USA
3
Philadelphia Field Division, Drug Enforcement Administration, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9(11), 202; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9110202
Received: 29 September 2020 / Revised: 3 November 2020 / Accepted: 4 November 2020 / Published: 7 November 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Research on Gang-Related Violence in the 21st Century)
Research has found that drug markets tend to cluster in space, potentially because of the profit that can be made when customers are drawn to areas with multiple suppliers. But few studies have examined how these clusters of drug markets—which have been termed “agglomeration economies”—may be related to accidental overdose deaths, and in particular, the spatial distribution of mortality from overdose. Focusing on a large neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, known for its open-air drug markets, this study examines whether deaths from accidental drug overdose are clustered around street corners controlled by drug trafficking gangs. This study incorporates theoretically-informed social and physical environmental characteristics of street corner units into the models predicting overdose deaths. Given a number of environmental changes relevant to drug use locations was taking place in the focal neighborhood during the analysis period, the authors first employ a novel concentration metric—the Rare Event Concentration Coefficient—to assess clustering of overdose deaths annually between 2015 and 2019. The results of these models reveal that overdose deaths became less clustered over time and that the density was considerably lower after 2017. Hence, the predictive models in this study are focused on the two-year period between 2018 and 2019. Results from spatial econometric regression models find strong support for the association between corner drug markets and accidental overdose deaths. In addition, a number of sociostructural factors, such as concentrated disadvantage, and physical environmental factors, particularly blighted housing, are associated with a higher rate of overdose deaths. Implications from this study highlight the need for efforts that strategically coordinate law enforcement, social service provision and reductions in housing blight targeted to particular geographies. View Full-Text
Keywords: drug markets; gangs; opioids; overdose; spatial concentration; generalized cross-entropy drug markets; gangs; opioids; overdose; spatial concentration; generalized cross-entropy
MDPI and ACS Style

Johnson, N.J.; Roman, C.G.; Mendlein, A.K.; Harding, C.; Francis, M.; Hendrick, L. Exploring the Influence of Drug Trafficking Gangs on Overdose Deaths in the Largest Narcotics Market in the Eastern United States. Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, 202. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9110202

AMA Style

Johnson NJ, Roman CG, Mendlein AK, Harding C, Francis M, Hendrick L. Exploring the Influence of Drug Trafficking Gangs on Overdose Deaths in the Largest Narcotics Market in the Eastern United States. Social Sciences. 2020; 9(11):202. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9110202

Chicago/Turabian Style

Johnson, Nicole J., Caterina G. Roman, Alyssa K. Mendlein, Courtney Harding, Melissa Francis, and Laura Hendrick. 2020. "Exploring the Influence of Drug Trafficking Gangs on Overdose Deaths in the Largest Narcotics Market in the Eastern United States" Social Sciences 9, no. 11: 202. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9110202

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