Research in 1992 put the cost of Australia’s drug law enforcement (DLE) efforts at $320 million. The current cost is almost certainly much higher than this. It is impossible to determine whether this money is wisely spent. Figures showing the quantities of illegal drugs seized or the number of illegal drug dealers arrested fall far short of what is required. Reliance on crude indicators of success has fostered a view in some quarters that DLE has neither rational justification nor a meaningful role to play in harm minimisation. This view is mistaken. But if cynicism about DLE is not to become widespread amongst both the public and policy makers, police must take action to render it susceptible to objective evaluation.
To facilitate this process, this bulletin puts forward a set of possible DLE performance indicators for heroin, based on data which is already available or readily obtained. The indicators cover both the outcomes which DLE seeks to achieve and the strategies which it engages in to achieve them. That is, they provide a means of assessing police performance in minimising the harm associated with heroin and a means of gauging what police are doing to achieve this objective. There are many ways in which the indicators being put forward can be improved upon. Even the present rather rudimentary set of indicators, however, will require much closer cooperation between law enforcement and health agencies if it is to be implemented.