Survey: Police Chiefs Struggle to Contain Drug Abuse, Addiction

Oct 24, 2017

Angela Barlow, assistant professor of sociology and criminology at Keene State College
Credit Courtesy of Keene State College

New Hampshire police chiefs overwhelmingly cite drug abuse as the most serious problem facing their communities, according to a new survey from Keene State College.

“Police chiefs are confronting these problems every day,” said Keene State Professor Angela Barlow, who directed the survey. “And they’re having very little success at reducing the opioid crisis and addiction issues within their communities.”

The survey went out to all full-time police chiefs in New Hampshire last year. About half, including those from the largest cities, responded, Barlow said.

A majority of respondents said medical professionals, not law enforcement, are in the best position to handle drug abuse, with occasional intervention from police. A majority also reported believing that law enforcement had so far been unsuccessful in reducing the drug problem overall.

A smaller portion, just under 30 percent, said they've changed their opinion on decriminalizing small amounts of illegal drugs in recent years. "Some of them said they want to help non-violent offenders rather than incarcerate them," Barlow said. "Others said the magnitude of the opioid crisis had changed their mind -- that the status quo is not working."

Barlow will present the results Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the student center at Keene State. She'll also speak on her research on drug policy in Portugal.