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Drug Treatment Approach Credited with OR Crime Drop

September 16, 2009

PORTLAND, Ore. - Oregon is doing something right, if new crime figures from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)are the gauge. The state's rate of violent crime dropped 10.6 percent from 2007 to 2008, the largest decrease in the nation, and property crimes dropped almost 7 percent during the same time period.

The Partnership for Safety and Justice (PSJ), a statewide criminal justice advocacy group, credits the legislature's approach to the methamphetamine epidemic starting in 2005. Instead of a knee-jerk "tough-on-crime" reaction, PSJ Communications Director Denise Welch says, Oregon took another tack that turned out to be more effective.

"Oregon chose to reduce the availability of substances used to manufacture meth, and invest meaningful financial resources into drug treatment and drug courts, which have proven to reduce recidivism and future crime."

Welch says the FBI figures are proof that the approach is working, and that funding for it should be continued. Of course, there are still some who believe any drug-related offense should come with a prison term - but she sees that as an expensive and ineffective way to treat addiction-driven crime.

"We've clearly seen that Oregon can reduce crime more effectively and less expensively when we invest in a treatment and prevention approach, rather than sinking hundreds of millions of dollars into building new prisons."

The statistics were compiled from 17,000 law enforcement agencies around the country. Of the seven Oregon cities in the survey, only Eugene showed crime increases. Lane County says less money for law enforcement there is to blame.

The FBI figures are online at www.fbi.gov.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR