Drugs, Race, and Common Ground: Reflections on the High Point Intervention

At the 2008 National Institute of Justice Conference, David Kennedy talked about his work to combat drug markets and promote police-community reconciliation, especially within the High Point Intervention, an innovative program now being replicated in many sites nationally under the Drug Market Intervention.

When Chief James Fealy arrived in High Point, N.C., in 2003, he found parts of the city awash in drugs and dealers. But rather than relying on traditional suppression and interdiction approaches to fight the problem, Fealy — who had worked narcotics for more than a quarter of a century in the Austin (Texas) Police Department — spearheaded a new, potentially transformative strategy. Its roots were in the now-familiar “focused deterrence” approach, which addresses particular problems — in this case drug markets — by putting identified offenders on notice that their community wants them to stop, that help is available and that particular criminal actions will bring heightened law enforcement attention. The High Point initiative, however, added the unprecedented — and initially terrifying — element of truth-telling about racial conflict. The result of these conversations in High Point was twofold: a plan for doing strategic interventions to close drug markets and the beginning of a reconciliation process between law enforcement and the community. 

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