The changes in the registered drug crime reflect the police efforts to a greater degree than the actual drug crime


I will discuss how the police control influence drug criminal statistics. This is related to how social control works. Finally I will look at welfare changes in the western countries.

Laws and norms

What is really crime? If you ask the average person he will say its something illegal and something that gives punishment. Thorsen, Lid and Stene defines it very elegantly:
Crime is a violation of current law and is associated with punishment.

Nils Christie wrote that "actions are not, they become". What did he mean by that? To understand, we need to take a look at norms.

The laws come from our norms. Norsm are rules and expectations that society has for our behavior. Norms change with time in different social groups.

There is a difference between informal and formal norms. The informal norms are those who have not been written down; it may be that the ladies should have the care role for children. The formal norms are written down by the state. It is what we regard as laws.

Breaking a norm will cause a deviation. A person that have broken a rules and expectations is a deviater. There is a relationship here. The relationship is between the deviation and the penalty the society gives him. This relationship is what we call for social control. The social control is strong in all societies.

Ragnar Hauge defines law bidding with three simple sentences:

  • An event

  • A statutory provision that defines the act as illegal

  • An enforcement where the act is affected by a legal provision

Now we are begining to come to the core of Nils Christie's utterance that actions are not, they become. If a person does drugs, that's an act. It's only when we decide that this type of act will be illegal that we can arrest him. We have done this with drugs, we have stated that it is illegal to use drugs. So we have both an event and a legal provision.

If we only have an event and a statutory provision, but not an enforcement, we get "dark numbers". Someone has used drugs, but the police either didnt see it, have not prioritized it or ignored the offense. Only when the police does anything about the offense then we will have it included in the crime statistics.

Cecilie Høigård wrote that we must put everything in a human context. We can not enforce laws without doing this. If we have two people who bump in to each during a football match, then we do not have a crime. This is because the social context states that bumping into each other is allowed in the football world.

We are going to pull Cecilie Høigårds human context further by looking at malum in see and malum prohibitum. Malum in se means wrong or evil in itself. Here we have acts such as murder, rape, theft and morality. All societies agree that theese acts are illegal. Because of this they are universal. They must be there for the community to work.

Malum prohibitum is the opposite of malum in see. Malum prohibitum means that it is illegal because of a law. As an example, you drive in England on the left side of the road, but the rest of the world drive on the right side. There's nothing wrong with it, it's just the law there.

Socioeconomic status

Angelika Schafft explained in her text that we have a socioeconomic status. This socioeconomic status comes from our education and income.

We hold three different types of capital. They are economic, social and cultural capital. They are related to the socioeconomic status. Those with low socioeconomic status are those who are poor in society, and the opposite for those with high socioeconomic status. Thus, we can say that we have classes or societies, based on how much of this status we have.

Society discriminates based on socioeconomic status. We can see this by looking at our prisons. Angelika Schafft explains that it is discriminating and you see it on the inmates. The law is equal to everyone, but it is not. It is discriminates because of:

  • Laws - The laws are written to affect those with low socioeconomic status. They are written by those with high socio-economic status.

  • Control - The control mechanisms in society makes it easy to arrest people for simple offenses. It is easier to go after drug addicts on the street than computer / economic crime.

  • Statistics - The laws that typically affect those with high socioeconomic status come from special legislation that provides another statistical basis.

Paul Larsson confirms that it is discriminated by looking at who is in prison. Off all inmates about 65 % have drug problems. They are men, have problems with school, are from cities and does drugs.

This can be illustrated as follows:

Fig: Distribution of inmates from low and high classes.

The left side of the triangle represents inmates from low socioeconomic status. The side are inmates that have high socioeconomic status. So what how does this relate to drug control? The people from high socio-economic classes are the people who write the laws. This is supported by Cecilie Hoevården's text on how the legislation changes;

  • Time and place - Drugs have been the major societal problem since the 1960s, especially in the cities. But in the countryside it's different.

  • History and Culture - Drug policy has caused problems throughout history.

  • Social Control - If two persons fight no one really cares. But if they do drugs, then its shameful. This constitutes the social control.

  • The interests of power groups - Nobody spoke of the substance of the drugs in politics.

  • Press group impact power - We have always had a great deal of pressure to get rid of drugs. Even politicians have used this as "the big ugly wolf, and all that's wrong with the youth".

  • Changes in drug use

    Has there been any change in the number of people who use drugs? It's easy to find some statistics on extract numbers on drug use. Below is numbers and comments about the numbers from Norway.

    Fig: Drug reports from 1993-2005 in Norway

    Fig: Drug reports from 2006-2017 in Norway

    There was a sharp increase in the 1960s when the Medicines Act was implemented.

    In 1998 the chief of police (Riksadvokaten) asked the police to registrer all types of crime individualy. For example possession and drug use should be registered separately. Previously they would have been one single report.

    Police Reform 2000 caused districts to be merged togheter. This caused double registrations of crimes. Two years later the goverment fixed the numbers.

    In 2005 a new criminal law came with new criminal codes. Because of this it is not possible to have a graph from 1993 to today, it has to be splitted into two diffrent graphs.

    The police refused to work overtime in 2008. This caused a drop in number of drug arrests.

    The conclusion of this is that statistics are not easy. It varies with codes, reforms and registration methods.

    It's easy to interpret the statistics wrong. An example is inductive fallacy. Its a fact that in Norway the city "Oslo" and and the country side "Finnark" has most violence. The lowest violence is found in "Sogn og Fjordane". It's about close and loose society. Perhaps its easier to fight a person in the city of Oslo because you do not know him. While in Finnmark you get so annoyed by someone driving over your field that you hit him.

    Fig: Dense and loose society, compared with violence.

    The statistics can easily be manipulated. Police reforms causes focus on target numbers and economics. The newspapers make great announcements about how many illegal foreigners that are going to export in the course of a year, and how many the police have exported at the current time. Measuremening is very popular in the police, and it follows all departments of the police.

    If the police chief sees that the targets for drug seizures have not been reached, it is easy for him to get more arrests. He will just go to the police sub leaders and say that they have to go to the park and make arrests for drug use. As a police this is not right etics.

    If the police want to they can make more arrests. If the police chief wants to remove drug addicts from the town square then the numbers of arrests will increase.

    Cecilie Høigårds wrote about pressure groups. We can imagine that the business owners on a town square can make a demand that the police chief clear it for drug users. If the Chief of Police then orders that the square shall be cleaned from drug users and that everyone is to be arrested in order to prevent them coming back, then there will be an increase in the statistics. Thus, such actions have an impact on the figures in the statistics.


    The western countries has experienced a huge welfare increase. The amount of bulgaries are all time low because the typical thief have stopped doing street crime. He now instead focues on crimes using his laptop. He does not make profit on breaking into homes or cars. Alarms and technology in the cars have made this difficult, but another reason is the welfare increase in the western countries. Drug addicts now get on prescription and can collect medicine at the pharmacy. Thus drug addicts dont have to do crime to get their daily dose of drugs.

    The typical criminal now fakes ads on the Internet. He steals mail with credit cards and codes, which he again uses to take loans and buy things online. It is more difficult for controllers to follow the Internet world than to drive the patrol car around the square to look for drug addicts. This also has a large part of the reason why the efforts of the inspectors have something about the crime statistics. When it gets harder to control, it will also be harder to make arrests. If you go to any used goods site on the Internet and search on iPhone, you will see that a single person is responsible for many ads, which should typically sould give a alarm. If the police made an effort on the Internet then the number of arrest would increase.

    Another aspect of technology and welfare is that today you can order drugs from the Internet. Daily there are huge amounts of mail that has to be checked for drugs. The customs can not go trough everything, so there will be some dark numbers here.

    The fact that the customs office does not cover all drugs sent can be substantiated by the fact that foreign companies operating on the dark web (place where drugs and others are sold) can provide a delivery guarantees. If the customs authorities stop a drug letter, the supplier will ship a new delivery at no charge. If the customs authorities had more resources to control, the number of letters with drugs taken in border controls would increase. Thus, the number of arrests would also increase and the statistics would have looked different.


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