The socioeconomic impact of drug-related crimes in Chile

Matías Fernández
International Journal on Drug Policy 2012, 23 (6): 465-72

BACKGROUND: Illegal drug use and trafficking are closely connected to crime. This article estimates the socioeconomic impact of this connection in Chile.

METHODS: Goldstein's tripartite model was applied quantifying drug-crime connections and then using those estimates to measure the socioeconomic impact of drug-related crimes. This was estimated in terms of both the monetary cost of law enforcement, and lost productivity due to incarceration. This socioeconomic impact can be divided into: (a) the direct costs arising from infractions to Chile's Drug Law, and the indirect costs originated by crimes linked only partially to drug consumption and trafficking; (b) is measured in productivity losses, as well as in costs to the three branches of Chile's criminal justice system (police, judiciary, and prisons); and (c) is attributed to the three illicit drugs most prevalent in Chile: cannabis, cocaine hydrochloride (CH) and cocaine base paste (CBP).

RESULTS: The socioeconomic impact of Chile's drug-crime relationship in 2006 is estimated to be USD 268 million. Out of this amount, 36% is spent on national Drug Law enforcement, and the remaining 64% comes from the connection of drug use and trafficking with non-Drug-Law-related crimes. The police bear the largest share of drug enforcement costs (32%), followed by penitentiaries (25%). Productivity losses due to incarceration for drug-related crimes represent 29% of the total impact. 53% of the costs are attributable to CBP, 29% to CH, and the remaining 18% to cannabis. The impact of CBP is greater when indirect costs are taken into account, although direct costs are primarily associated with CH.

CONCLUSION: The majority of costs is attributed to the trafficking and consumption of CBP, a drug with a relatively low prevalence. Based on the results, this study suggests reviewing drug enforcement policies to differentiate them according to the social and individual harm caused by each drug.

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