"Drugs and Public Housing: Toward a More Effective Police Response,” in Doris
MacKenzie and Craig Uchida (eds.), Drugs and Crime. Newbury Park, CA: Sage
Publications, 1994, 129-148.
This chapter reviews “lessons learned” with regard to drug problems and drug enforcement in
public housing. It draws upon past research and the authors’ fieldwork in Denver and New
“Drug Enforcement in Public Housing,” in Robert C. Davis, Arthur Lurigio, and Dennis
Rosenbaum (ed.) Drugs and the Community: Involving Community Residents in
Combating the Sale of Illegal Drugs. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, 1993, 162-174.
This chapter describes two police programs that tackled drug problems in public housing. The
programs were fielded in housing developments in Denver and New Orleans, by special
Narcotics Enforcement in Public Housing Units (NEPHUs) that were supported by grants from
the Bureau of Justice Assistance. In both cities it was apparent that police were not devoting
sufficient attention to drug sale and use in public housing, and that they were not working in
cooperation with the management of those developments or helping residents deal with their
problems. This chapter first describes some of the difficulties involved in drug enforcement in
the special kinds of "neighborhoods" created by larger public housing projects. Then it
describes the new NEPHU units, their tactical plans , and the difficulties they encountered in
working with the communities and local Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) to deal with drug
Drug Enforcement in Public Housing. Washington, DC: Police Foundation,1993.
The Narcotics Enforcement in Public Housing Unit (NEPHU) was established in Denver,
Colorado, with the support of a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). It was
enforcement-oriented and employed traditional policing methods, but focused new energy and
resources on a problem that otherwise was not being squarely addressed. Before the
formation of its special housing unit, narcotics enforcement in public housing was the
responsibility of Denver's two regular drug units’ in addition, each police district had a tactical
squad that could be called in to deal with specific situations. As in many cities, however,
uninformed police and officers on narcotics assignments preferred to avoid working on public
housing areas. Public residents normally occupy the largest rung on the drug distribution
ladder and infrequently deal in large quantities of drugs, the seizures of money and drugs in
public housing rarely equal, in magnitude, the seizures of other narcotics units. Impressive
seizure totals are the measure of worth of many narcotics units; they also provide the means
by which many police departments finance continuing narcotics operations. Aggressive units
thus tend to look outside public housing developments for action. NEPHU was formed to lodge
responsibility for public housing enforcement in the hands of a special unit, thus signaling
recognition of the importance of drug problems in public housing.
Policing Abstracts