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Communities and drugs: Beyond the rhetoric of community action.

McKeganey, Neil
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) Probation Journal. 51(4):343-361.

Involving communities in developing locally based initiatives to tackle the
problem of illegal drugs is a cornerstone of the UK drug strategy. Whilst the notion
of rebuilding communities is very much at the heart of New Labour polices, the
notion of community itself has been criticized for assuming a commonality of interests
on the part of what are often diverse and conflicting voices within communities.
In this article we consider the potential for community based action of a kind
envisaged within the UK drug strategy, within a community in Scotland that has a
substantial local drug problem. On the basis of ethnographic research within this
community we identified profoundly anti-drug user sentiments on the part of residents,
coupled with concerns about anti-social behaviour on the part of young
people and a sense of failure on the part of the police to maintain public safety.
Drug users also articulated a sense of exclusion from the community in which they
had grown up. In advance of developing locally based initiatives to tackle the
drugs problem in the area it will be necessary to re-establish a sense of safety on
the part of community members and to develop a greater degree of understanding
and trust between the various factions within the community, including between
those using illegal drugs and those not using illegal drugs. It is suggested that one
way in which this could be facilitated is through a community based restorative
justice process tied to concrete programmes of community development and
possibly funded on the basis of seized assets from known drug dealers. (author’s abstract)


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