2007 Winner
City of High Point, North Carolina
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards
North Carolina
A decade ago, street-level drug dealing and its attendant criminal activity, from assaults to prostitution, were rife in High Point, North Carolina. The police force was both ineffectual and it had alienated the community with the use of strong-arm police tactics.
To mend the relationship between law enforcement and community members while also combating crime more effectively, the High Point Police Department adopted a new approach known as the Overt Drug Market Strategy (ODMS). ODMS combines crime mapping, community policing and a new accord with drug dealers.
Police first identify crime-ridden neighborhoods in High Point. They then begin a program of aggressive intelligence gathering to identify and build cases against the most active dealers. Violent offenders are aggressively prosecuted.
But the program reserves an alternative strategy for drug dealers who lack a history of violent behavior. Police "call in" these dealers, with the assurance that they will not be arrested, to a meeting where family and community members speak to the damage that their criminal behavior causes loved ones and neighbors. The dealers are given an ultimatum: Either stop selling drugs—and reap the benefits of employment, affordable housing, and educational programming—or face arrest.
The Police Department has not eliminated the drug trade in High Point, but it has successfully reduced has reduced violent crime in High Point by an average of 51 percent. The High Point Police Department is additionally reaching out to law enforcement agencies across North Carolina and the country to assist them with the implementation of parallel efforts in their jurisdictions. The cities of Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and Raleigh have already employed similar strategies. The National Urban League has also invited High Point police officers to many cities to describe their violence-reduction tactics to local leaders, prosecutors, and law enforcement agents in the hopes of fostering replication of the ODMS throughout the country.