Identity Theft? Re-framing the Policing of Organised Drug Crime in the UK as Harm Reduction

Martin Elvins

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This article is concerned with the claim made by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) of the United Kingdom (UK) that it is a "harm reduction agency with law enforcement powers." This novel description prompts some important questions about the political saliency of the term harm reduction in the context of UK drug policy. The article will explore the extent to which SOCA, which began operation in 2006, and the 2005 attempt by the Home Office to develop a drug harm index signify a re-framing of UK drug policy. Does the SOCA remit reflect a pragmatic lowering of expectations concerning the ability of law enforcement to reduce drug crime? Or does it reflect a political pragmatism that casts familiar methods in a new, softer light? The article will explore the recent etymology of harm in UK drug policy discourse, prompting wider consideration of the extent to which an apparent mutation in the received meaning of drug harm reduction may render the issue of ownership of terminology an increasingly important factor in relation to public understanding of the underlying causal drivers, and the policies used to manage drugs and drug use in our societies. Such considerations must be viewed in the wider, international context and the present situation in which the United Nations actively denies currency to the phrase harm reduction.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)241-264
    Number of pages24
    JournalContemporary Drug Problems
    Issue number2/3
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


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