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Researchers Suggest New Cocaine Tracking System That Could Lead To Better Drug Enforcement

Update Date: Jun 20, 2014 10:41 AM EDT

It is important to better understand the trafficking patterns of drugs before addressing and enforcing laws. In the related context researchers are devising a new methodology that could be of some help. 

Researchers studied wholesale powdered cocaine prices in 112 U.S. cities to identify city-to-city links for the transit of the drug. They based their study on the data published by the National Drug Intelligence Center of the U.S. Department of Justice from 2002 to 2011. 

"These data enable us to identify suspected links between cities that may have escaped the attention of drug enforcement authorities," said Siddharth Chandra, director of MSU's Asian Studies Center and professor in MSU's James Madison College, in the press release

"By identifying patterns and locations, drug policy and enforcement agencies could provide valuable assistance to federal, state and local governments in their decisions on where and how to allocate limited law enforcement resources to mitigate the cocaine problem."

Chandra analyzed prices for 6,126 pairs of cities for possible links and noted that if two cities are connected, prices will move in lockstep. He also noted that if cocaine will flow from the city with the lower price to the city with higher price. 

Eventually, Chandra created a map of the possible drug routes and compared with the map produced by the National Drug Intelligence Center. He found that a number of his routes hadn't been identified. 

"As an economist, the big takeaway is that prices carry some valuable information about trafficking in illegal goods," Chandra said.

The study is published in the Journal of Drug Issues. 

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