The popular image of well organised gangs of drug dealers run by a "Mr.
Big" is a myth, according to Dorn and his colleagues. Among drug dealers in
Britain, there are "no cartels; no Mafia; no drug barons and relatively
little corruption," although such forms of organisation may well exist in
producing countries or to some extent in the US. Here, drug distribution is
best described as 'disorganised crime'.
The authors interviewed 25 convicted drug traffickers of both sexes in
prison and found that they had a wide range of motives. They also spoke to
55 people who had been active in the illegal drug market but had not been
convicted. Some were still dealing.
They found that dealers fell into a number of main types:
1. Trading Charities: people who are motivated by ideological reasons rather
2. Mutual Societies: networks of user-dealers who are friends.
3. Sideliners: legal businesses that trade in drugs as a sideline.
4. Criminal Diversifiers: criminal businesses that also get involved with drugs=09
5. Opportunistic Irregulars: people who get involved in a variety of
activities - legal and illegal - including drug dealing.
6. Retail Specialists: organised drug dealing enterprises with a manager
employing a number of people in specialist roles to distribute.
7. State-sponsored traders: drug dealing enterprises that result from
collaboration between the police and dealers, such as those allowed to
trade in exchange for information.
The situation is fluid, so categories are loose and dealers change their
methods. There has been a general shift towards the more overtly criminal
type of dealer.
In the 1960s there was a greater number of hash dealers who distributed
just to get free supplies and status.
Pubs are used as distribution points by 'sideliners' ."There are wholesale
pubs and retail pubs," the authors say. In the former, deals of
#5,000-#20,000 can take place "twenty times a day". It is quite common for
dealers in stolen antiques to move into drug dealing.
Retail specialists, the most organised type of dealer, are on the increase.
They organise distribution in a way that mirrors other commercial
distributors: specialists work under a general manager. The specialists
include buyers; accountants dealing with the 'washing' of money; "reps"
negotiating with security staff at raves; sales reps finding customers but
not carrying drugs; people looking after the drug stock; lookouts and
people to provide physical protection. These last may prevent other gangs
from poaching on the gang's territory, and help to create diversions to
distract the police, by, for example, starting a fight.
The authors discuss various methods by which drugs money is laundered and
the mistaken police policy, adopted from the United States, of trying to
'get Mr. Big'.
Widespread knowledge of police policies helps the dealers to adapt and to
avoid being caught. Because the dealers are well-informed, flexible and
constantly adapting, random methods would be more effective than current
policies in tracking them down.
Undercover police operations
Police agents adopt an identity and lifestyle that is maintained on a
24-hour basis for a lengthy period. The authors give a long graphic account
of a police operation to find drug manufacturers. A policeman poses as a
buyer for a gang and negotiates a test deal in a pub and, later, a bigger
deal. The suppliers get suspicious that the "buyer" is prepared to pay so
much given the quality of the drug they are selling, but come to the wrong
conclusion that he is part of a gang trying to get the drugs without
paying. Arrests are made and the undercover agent head-butts a policeman
and gets away, thereby hiding his true identity.
The authors say that the rise of Ecstasy and the return of LSD are not
linked to crime in the same way as heroin, users of which are said to
commit crime in order to pay for their habits, and crack cocaine, which is
associated with violence.
A chapter on 'intelligence' includes a survey of what the police regard as
'good intelligence'. Curiously, intelligence that is 'current and detailed'
scores twice as high as intelligence that proves 'right on investigation'.
It is mentioned that the first seizure of 100,000 MDMA tablets resulted
from police tracing a manufacturer through their materials suppliers.