Drugs and Violence in Neighborhoods: Causal Relationship or Common Causes?

Randy R. Gainey, Old Dominion University
Brian K. Payne, Old Dominion University

Numerous theories link drugs to violence and gun-related violence in particular. In two previous analyses we tested the hypothesis that gun related violence was related to drug activity in Norfolk, Virginia. First, using offense data from the local police we found that guns were rarely found in crimes characterized as predominately drug related and that drugs were rarely obtained by officers in gun related offenses. Limitations in the data led to the second set of analyses where we used prosecutor case files to look for evidence of drugs in violent crime (homicide and robbery) and gun use/presence in drug crimes. Again,w e found little support for a drug-violence link. In this paper we use multivariate analyses to re-examine offense data and assess a potential drug-violence relationship at the neighborhood level (block-groups). Theoretical and policy implications are discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006