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High Point Police Department Wins Innovation Award for Drug Market Strategy Designed by Professor David Kennedy

The High Point, North Carolina police department yesterday received the 2007 Innovations in American Government Award from the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.  This prestigious award is being given to High Point for their successful strategy to eliminate neighborhood drug markets, which was designed by Professor Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control. 

According to President Jeremy Travis, “It is indeed gratifying for John Jay to see Professor Kennedy’s work receive such high praise and recognition.  This award is particularly noteworthy since this is the second time that Professor Kennedy’s crime reduction strategies are being recognized with the Innovations in American Government Award.”  In 1997, the Boston Police Department was recognized for Operation Ceasefire, a strategy designed by Kennedy to deter firearm violence.

High Point chief of police James Fealy said, “It produces results that are so dramatic it’s almost incredible.  It is sustainable.  It does not produce the community harms that our traditional street-sweeping, unfocused efforts have.  The most important benefit of this work by the people of High Point is the reconciliation that emerges from the dialogue between the minority community and the police.  It’s nothing short of miraculous.”

“The High Point work is the most gratifying I’ve ever done,” says Professor Kennedy.  “I got into the crime prevention field because of the crack epidemic and what it was doing to communities, and after all this time perhaps we’re finally getting somewhere.  This holds out hope for protecting communities both from drugs and violence and from the unintended consequences of rampant law enforcement.  It gives us a framework for working on racial issues that terrify us so deeply we can’t even acknowledge them.  The people in High Point are selfless, serious, and courageous, and they deserve this award completely.”

The High Point Police Department will receive $100,000 to promote replication of its overt drug market strategy and share best practices around the country.

The strategy is designed to permanently eliminate overt drug markets (street sales, drug houses, and the like); reduce the violent crime and disorder associated with those markets; reduce incarceration and other harmful effects of law enforcement; and heal the rift between law enforcement and the minority communities in which overt markets are found. 

Central to the strategy is frank talk between law enforcement and communities about the ineffectiveness and unintended community harms of traditional drug enforcement; the deep but unspoken racial issues that divide communities and police; the need for communities to clearly articulate norms against drug dealing and violence; and the importance of seeing even drug dealers as members of the community who deserve respect and assistance. 

The strategy identifies neighborhood drug markets, builds criminal cases against low-level dealers; reaches out to those dealers’ families and others who are close to them; and brings dealers, family members, community members, and law enforcement together in a face-to-face meeting.  Dealers are told by law enforcement that the case against them will be suspended if they stop selling drugs but immediately activated if they do not; by community and family members that they are deeply valued but their criminality is unequivocally rejected; and by social service providers that they and their families will be ensured any help they need with food, housing, clothing, education, and job training and placement. 

Professor Kennedy worked with the High Point Police Department to refine and implement the strategy.  High Point had its first face-to-face meeting with drug dealers, from the city’s West End neighborhood, on May 18th, 2004.  The drug market shut down immediately and permanently, with a sustained 35% reduction in violent crime.  High Point repeated the strategy in three additional markets over the next three years.  There is virtually no remaining public drug dealing in the city, and serious crime has fallen 20% citywide.

The High Point strategy has since been implemented in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and Raleigh, NC; in Providence, RI; and in Rockford, IL.  The US Department of Justice is launching a national program to replicate the strategy in ten cities.

The Center for Crime Prevention and Control fosters innovative crime reduction strategies through hands-on fieldwork, research, and unique partnerships with communities, police, prosecutors and other law enforcement professionals.  Its staff is actively engaged in crime prevention initiatives in jurisdictions around the country and the world fostering close working relations with practitioners within key criminal justice and community institutions.

About John Jay College of Criminal Justice: An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York offers a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to upwards of 14,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nationsIn teaching, scholarship and research, the College approaches justice as an applied art and science in service to society and as an ongoing conversation about fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law.  For more information, visit