Drug offence detection during the pandemic: A spatiotemporal study of drug markets

Publication Name

Journal of Criminal Justice


Purpose: Research on COVID-19 and crime has so far shown that most crime types declined, especially in the early months of the pandemic. Illicit drug offences were a notable exception, however few studies have considered changes at specific drug market locations. This study documents how key drug markets were affected during the lockdown. Methods: Using a spatiotemporal generalised additive model (GAM), this study examines the pattern of drug offence detection throughout the city of Brisbane, Australia and identifies areas of change during lockdown. Statistical meshblock analysis is used to illustrate discrete changes at key market locations. Results: Contrary to aggregate-level analysis, we show that several of the major drug markets experienced a significant decline in drug offence detections, but that these local changes were offset by a displacement to neighbouring areas. We also find some preliminary evidence of the emergence of new outer-urban markets. Conclusions: Existing drug markets were adversely affected by the COVID-19 lockdown, however drug market activity was likely displaced rather than diminished.

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