The violence that has accompanied Mexico’s war on drug cartels follows a predictable pattern, reports the Associated Press. A review of more than 300 international studies over the past 20 years found that when police crack down on drug users and dealers, the result is almost always an increase in violence, say researchers at the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy, a nonprofit group based in Britain and Canada. When communities get tough on drug crime, that drives up the black market profits, prompting fierce battles to control the lucrative trade, the study says. And when powerful drug bosses are taken out, it’s common for more brutal and less sophisticated criminals to step in.
The study emphasizes the need for “an urgent need to shift resources from counterproductive law enforcement to a health-based public health approach,” said one expert. As happened with Mexico’s all-out drug crackdown launched when President Felipe Calderon took office a little over three years ago, murders shot up during the U.S. prohibition on liquor in the 1920s and during Colombia’s crackdown on its drug gangs in the 1990s. In 87 percent of the studies reviewed, intensifying drug law enforcement resulted in increased rates of drug market violence. U.S. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, asked about the findings, said the U.S. government is shifting its emphasis toward prevention and treatment of drug abuse, but he said the prohibition on drugs must remain and enforcement must continue.