How Did The Drug Market Intervention Led By The Urban League Help Georgia’s Drug Problem?

04 Oct How Did The Drug Market Intervention Led By The Urban League Help Georgia’s Drug Problem?

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Addiction is a serious matter that comes in a myriad of forms, including alcohol, drugs, and sex. Though an individual’s struggle with addiction will never end, the circumstances generally have one of two ways of concluding: remission or relapse. Unfortunately, when a drug relapse occurs, an overdose or some sort of self-destruction is highly possible. In a word, change needs to take place to help protect individuals and the community. After all, addiction takes place anywhere and everywhere—no area is off limits.

Further, it is necessary to recognize addiction as an illness. This point will be addressed later on, but really needs to be started early in order to properly treat an addiction. Only once the problem has been fully understood, then can it be dealt with accordingly.

In the State of Georgia, specifically, the drug epidemic has vastly improved thanks in large part to the Urban League and its Drug Market Intervention program.

According to David Kennedy, a New York criminology professor and director of the National Network for Safe Communities, the Drug Market Intervention (DMI) approach has been established to stamp out drug markets in struggling neighborhoods. The program consists of police using traditional undercover tactics to build cases against drug dealers. However, before an arrest warrant is issued by a prosecutor, the dealer who has been caught by the undercover officer has two options to choose from: jail or change—both of which will successfully get the dealer off of the streets.

This is what happened to Vincent Stephenson, just one example of how Drug Market Intervention works and works well.

About Vincent Stephenson

Originally detailed in a story published online by Atlanta Magazine, Vincent Stephenson, a 48-year-old heroin addict was given a second chance: the ultimatum detailed above. After selling illegal drugs to an undercover police officer, Stephenson wasn’t arrested, but given an invitation to the Lindsay Street Baptist Church. Once there, he was informed that he could keep selling drugs and face the full extent of the law, or get help and leave his old life behind.

This different approach to tackling the drug problem surrounding English Avenue, as well as the rest of the Atlanta area, is DMI in full effect.

“It’s not [just] a program to help drug dealers change their ways,” Kennedy commented. “Once you break the connection between dealers and buyers, you can shut down a drug market.” And that’s the ultimate goal, or should be the goal, of any community currently facing a plague that is outlined with illegal drugs.

It should be noted that in order for a person to actually get the help he or she requires to better their life, they have to want it—like Vincent Stephenson. Until that point is reached, until the person knows a problem exists and wants to change, then trying to help that person is impossible.

The DMI aims to do that: inform individuals, and then educate them, before giving them the tools to change. But again, only if they want to change, as Stephenson did.

The Drug Market Intervention—The Beginning

Since its debut in 2004, The DMI method has been used in a variety of cities, such as High Point, North Carolina and Nashville, Tennessee. The statistics in these two example cities speak for themselves. Each has seen about a 50 percent drop in narcotic offenses. That is not to say all cities, whether small or large, will experience the same success rate. Each area is different, with various obstacles and challenges. Not to mention, success falls heavy on the specific individual involved.

Yet, there is one main factor that can single-handedly determine just how successful (or unsuccessful) the program will be: community members and cops must trust each other.

Though DMI has proven itself effective, in the beginning, there were some apprehensions.

For example, one member of the community assumed the program was initially designed to benefit the then-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium instead of the residents. Yet, the Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurel Boatright attended numerous neighborhood meetings to set the record straight.

Only after the community members were fully on board with the program were teams formed to perform an undercover operation strategy, in which roughly 50 dealers were targeted.

This is how the scene played out: Police officers in plainclothes bought drugs, all the while filming the illegal transaction, to later compile information regarding the dealer. Then, these same law enforcement made arrests—27 total. With the assistance of the APD, second chance letters were hand-delivered to dealers who did not have a violent rap sheet. Many of these dealers were also addicts themselves.

The results: Out of 18 law enforcement offers to “change their lifestyle,” a third accepted, while four dealers were arrested after selling again. A few dealers disappeared, and a handful more took the deal after additional troubles with the law.

The Success Rate

According to APD stats, during the first year after the DMI went into effect, heroin seizures dropped on English Avenue by 39 percent. Of course, the area has yet to become “drug-free,” yet progress has been made. Professionals are hopeful that with time, the drug market will disappear completely. A noticeable reduction has occurred, and that is what matters.

Regarding the individual mentioned above, Stephenson, his success speaks volumes.

“I’m not a villain; I’m an addict,” he told Atlanta Magazine. “I was looking for a way out. They pointed me to [it].”

After having received his letter and gone to Lindsay Street Baptist Church for his “second chance,” he was assisted in gaining a state-issued ID by the Urban League of Greater Atlanta, as well as given a suit for a job interview. Though, again, he wanted to change and was ready for it. He was looking for a way out of his old life, and because he had an open mind and was willing to work hard for his recovery, he is a success story.

It is clear that given the opportunity, a person can turn his or her life around, but they have to want to make a change—only then does the DMI program led by the Urban League stand a chance of staying successful. In fact, an individual has to be all in, fully dedicated to devoting his or her life to getting better by breaking old habits.

About the Urban League

The Urban League of Greater Atlanta first came about more than 98 years ago, as part of the National Urban League Network. Their missions are simple: enable and empower African Americans (and others) to achieve their highest human potential. Yet, in order to tap into that potential, a second chance is often required.

Enter the Drug Market Intervention Program.

The DMI program does not look at drug deals or addicts as criminals, per se, but as individuals who are suffering from an illness, much like any other type of disease that may plague society. Therefore, instead of being tossed into jail or prison, where they will likely serve time before hitting the streets once again to fall back into old habits, the option of getting a job and/or sober is offered. Ultimately, this opportunity breaks the established pattern, finally allowing such individuals to take back control of his or her life. Before, it is safe to believe, that many of these dealers or addicts did not know how to make a change, or did not have the right tools to do so. However, now with job training, housing assistance, and addiction counseling, change can rightfully be made, and it does not have to be made alone.

As a result, the drug problem throughout the State of Georgia has decreased greatly.

How the Drug Problem has Decreased in the State of Georgia

According to Georgia Drug Detox, nationwide, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. Further, drug abuse is among one of the most serious challenges the State of Georgia faces, and as previously stated, can take many different forms.

That being said, it is more than clear the drug problem has decreased throughout the state, particularly on English Avenue, as well as the rest of Atlanta. Though the situation seems to be more under control now, thanks in large part to DMI, that is not to say that it does not still exist—it does. However, much progress has been made in a little bit of time, which is important to note.

Simply put, the DMI method works—and here is why.

The Drug Market Intervention program does not blame or punish but empowers. This is a vital factor, as individuals need to believe that there is hope: hope for change and hope for a better life. As many involved in drugs, both dealers and users, admit to selling and/or using due to lack of job, education, or emotional state, this hope helps to reduce the false need for drugs.

As with most problematic areas, knowledge equals power. Therefore, it is necessary to provide education on both the dangers and consequences of drugs, but also the positive outcomes that can occur in getting help and making a change.

Finding a Rehab Center for You

If you are reading this, then it is possible that you are ready to make a change—without having been recently arrested or given an ultimatum. Perhaps you just want and need help. That is the main focus of DMI: providing help. Yet, you may have come to this conclusion on your own accord.

First, congratulations. Admitting that you have a problem and acknowledging that you need help tackling that problem are both imperative steps.

Next, if you want to achieve sobriety, then finding a rehab center that best suits you will most likely be a necessary part of the process. Depending on your current dependency on drugs and/or alcohol, it could be both dangerous and difficult to battle the addiction alone.

The State of Georgia offers many options when it comes to choosing a sobriety program. To ensure you find the best rehab in Georgia, you will need to do some homework, such as examine or audit the program, read reviews, speak to individuals who have experienced the program, and meet the staff.

It is best to find a program that is customized, one that will adhere to your specific illness. You want to be treated as an individual, not as a group. It will also be necessary to get a good understanding of what the rehab facility stands for—what are their principles? Otherwise, you may not get the appropriate treatment.

Lastly, be mindful of the price of the center and whether or not your insurance will cover it. You do not want to add further stress to your life, which could potentially cause a relapse. It goes without saying that the center or facility will be expensive. If your insurance does not cover part of the cost or full cost, do not be discouraged. Not only will there be many options to choose from, but most facilities want to help and will find a way to do so. In short, there is a rehab center for everyone!

Always Keep an Open Mind

The only way the drug epidemic in Georgia (and the rest of the world) stands even the slightest chance at coming to an end, is for everyone—despite whether or not they use, sell, deal, etc.—to keep an open mind. People do deserve second chances, and sometimes, help and understanding are needed to get better.

You should now have an idea of how the Drug Market Intervention program has helped the State of Georgia, as well as other areas of the world. This approach can positively affect more people, towns, and cities, but only if a certain amount of patience and open-mindedness is presented. The war on drugs is being fought, but it is a process and will take time.

In the meantime, awareness is just as important as knowledge and education. If you know someone who needs help, or you, yourself, requires assistance, please know that it does exist. Change is possible.


Blau, Max. “A Radical Program to Break Up English Avenue’s Drug Market Helps Former Dealers Find a Way Out.” Atlanta Magazine. 29 July 2016. 6 Mar. 2019.

“The Bluff’s Drug Problem.” Georgia Drug Detox. 24 May 2018. 6 Mar. 2019.

“How to Find a Rehab Center in Georgia.” 9 Aug. 2018. 6 Mar 2019.

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