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In this study, we examine the effects of the DEP intervention at three levels of complementary theoretical and practical relevance: the public housing development itself, the neighborhood in which public housing is situated, and the police precinct where the tract is located. From surveys of residents, observations of program activities, and analyses of NYCHA's program records, we compiled detailed information on the components of DEP and the reactions of public housing residents to each type of intervention. We then analyzed panel data from 1985-1996 to estimate the effects of DEP on crime rates in and around the city's public housing projects before and after the implementation of DEP. We used alternate measures of DEP interventions to provide robust estimates of the contributions of DEP to the decline in the city's crime rates beginning in 1991, a year after the onset of DEP. The results show that while DEP efforts were linked to declines in crime rates in the census tracts and police precincts surrounding public housing, there were no measurable declines in crime in the public housing projects themselves. We draw lessons from theories of procedural justice and social norms to explain why harsh treatment of public housing residents by police and prosecutors may have generated resistance among public housing residents to the legal norms that were the focus of DEP efforts.

We begin in Section I with a detailed description of the DEP Program implemented by the New York City Housing Authority. Section II provides an overview of NYCHA's Drug Elimination Program as implemented in the City's public housing projects. Section III discusses the details of the research protocols and analytic methods. Section IV presents the results for each of the three spatial dimensions of program effects: the projects themselves, the census tracts where public housing developments are sited, and the police precincts where DEP and other law enforcement strategies were implemented and managed. Section V discusses lessons for the theory, policy, and practice of drug control.


Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure | Housing Law | Law