Australian Institute of Criminology

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Medical prescriptions of heroin and neighbourhood risks

74 Leichhardt Street, Griffith ACT
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM 27 May 2010

Dr Serge Brochu Dr Serge Brochu

Presentation overview

Providing heroin to drug addicts at medically-supervised clinics does not pose risks to surrounding neighbourhoods according to a new study by Serge Brochu, a researcher at the Universitéde Montréal School of Criminology. Brochu found that the Montreal leg of the NAOMI project (North American Opiate Medication Initiative), did not have a negative impact on its surrounding neighbourhood. Launched in 2005, the NAOMI project did not foster increased criminal acts, dangerous debris, deviant behaviour or emergency interventions in its community. A comparable study of the NAOMI project's sister clinic in Vancouver, led by Neil Boyd of the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University, also found the impact of a heroin clinic to be negligible. The NAOMI-CI (Community Impact) studies were launched simultaneously in Montreal and Vancouver to measure the community impact of the experimental NAOMI project.

As part of the study, between May 2005 and June 2008, Brochu and his team interviewed nearly 40 residents, business owners, police officers, security guards, social workers, kindergarten employees and homeless people. Police data (criminal and uncivil acts) was obtained from the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal for the period 2002 to 2008. Brochu and his team also undertook 150 observational walks in the streets, alleyways, parks and parking lots within a 200-metre radius of the NAOMI clinic in to assess the levels of debris, deviant behavior and observable emergency interventions in the heart of the experimental sector.

Data collected during the neighborhood walks revealed that the quantity of drug injecting debris (syringes, needle covers, stericups, spoons etc) had decreased significantly. The NAOMI clinic had no discernable impact on the quantity of various street debris (drug containers, condoms, alcohol bottles etc), on deviant behavior (loitering, solicitation, public consumption of alcohol or drugs, squeegees, or rummaging through garbage) or on observable police and ambulance interventions in the heart of the experimental sector.

The presenter

Serge Brochu (Ph.D. clinical psychology) is the Executive Director of the International Forum of Public Universities and full professor at the School of Criminology of University of Montreal. He is the past director of the International Center for Comparative Criminology (1996-2004) and the co-director of Recherche et intervention sur les substances psychoactives - Québec (1991-). He also serves as President of the scientific committee of the International Criminology Society and Vice president of the Association des centres de réadaptation pour personnes dépendantes du Québec. Professor Brochu is also a member of the Royal Society of Canada. He is a member of the steering committee of the International Association of French Speaking Criminologists as well as a Member of the governing board and researcher at the Dollard- Cormier Center, Academic Institute on Addictions. He serves on the editorial boards of a number of journals including Criminologie, Drogue, santé et société. Professor Brochu's research themes are on the drugs/crime relationship; treatment of addicted offenders and program evaluation.