The Role of Violence in UK Drug Markets

Dick Hobbs, Durham University

Violence is often assumed to be an integral feature of drug dealing networks, the main evidence base for this being US research. Research on drug markets is comparatively rare in the UK, although portrayals of drug dealing both in the media and in official discourses also give a prominent place to violence.

This paper analyses the role of violence in different levels of drug markets in the UK. It is based on two research studies: the first, reported elsewhere in this panel session, which focused on `middle market' drug distribution; the second, which examined the `night-time' economy in the UK, with a special emphasis on clubs and other entertainment venues, and the role of doormen in maintaining security.

The evidence is that the role of violence assumes different forms at different levels of drug markets, and might be over-emphasised in portrayals of upper level distribution where it runs counter to business principles and is largely instrumental in character when violence does occur. The changing nature of serious crime networks involved in drug distribution is discussed in this context, from tight kinship and ethnic groupings to more open entrepreneurially based trading partnerships.

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Updated 05/20/2006