Drug offence detection during the pandemic: a spatiotemporal study of drug markets

Prof. Jason Payne1, Mr Cameron Langfield1

1University Of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia

The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated orders to ‘stay-at-home’ have been linked to a decline in most types of crime. Illicit drug offences were a notable exception, however few studies have considered changes at specific drug market locations. This study documents how key drug markets were affected during the lockdown. Using a spatiotemporal generalised additive model (GAM), this study examines the pattern of drug offence detection throughout the city of Brisbane, Australia and identifies areas of change during lockdown. We also examine the pattern of drug market activity in the known open-air drug market of Fortitude Valley. Contrary to aggregate-level analysis, we show that several of the major drug markets experienced a significant decline in drug offence detections, but that these local changes were offset by a displacement to neighbouring areas. We show that the drug market of Fortitude Valley was less active during the lockdown, but that drug market activity seems to have displaced, and we find evidence of the emergence of new outer-urban markets. Routine activities, diminished guardianship, and lower levels of passive surveillance all seem to be important factors in the location choice of displaced drug market participants.


Cameron is a PhD Scholar at the University of Wollongong


Dec 09 2021