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City without drugs

Ekaterinburg
Russia

 

Ekaterinburg’ ‘City without Drugs’ is a program operated by an NGO that aims to eliminate the drug dealing business in Eksterinburg. It consists of several sub-programs: registration and reaction to local residents’ information and denunciations received on pager 002 ‘City without Drugs’; collaboration with municipal police forces and participation in narcotraffic combat operations; a rehabilitation center for drug addicts; a rehabilitation center for problem teenagers; collaboration with media to alert the public of drug addiction problems; a Parents’ Council working with the organization; a ‘Sober City’ fund; and provision of assistance in creation of similar programs elsewhere.

The program is ongoing. Its main objectives are to:

  • Collaborate with municipalities and municipal police forces in order to stop narcotraffic in Ekaterinburg and the Sverdlovsk region;
  • Coordinate institutions’ and citizens’ actions in order to collect and analyze information about narcotraffic in Ekaterinburg;
  • Coordinate and collaborate with medical organizations, municipal police forces, and other institutions in order to achieve a realistic picture of the spread of drug addiction and HIV infection;
  • Collaborate with the media in order to attract attention to the problem of the spread of HIV and drug addiction in Ekaterinburg and the Sverdlovsk region;
  • Organize non-medical assistance for people suffering from drug addiction;
  • Organize necessary psychological and juridical assistance for people suffering from drug addiction and their families;
  • Organize events on prevention for children and teenagers; and
  • Participate in joint activities with municipal police forces, providing assistance to solve drug crimes and monitoring to prevent corruption.

The main direct beneficiaries of the policy are drug addicts and their families, although all the population is benefits indirectly. The population of Ekaterinburg participates by sending information and denunciations concerning illegal drug dealing to the fund’s pager number, which is shared with the municipal police authorities of the region. This permits the fund to monitor their further reaction and inform the population about the results through the media.

The program is not officially institutionalized and is financed through undisclosed private donations. Since 1999, over 6500 persons (men, women, and teenagers) have passed through the rehabilitation centres. Over 2148 successful joint operations were held with different municipal police forces, and more than 3353 drug dealers were arrested, with most of them consequently tried. Similar programs of the same name, based on the recommendations of Ekaterinburg’s ‘City without Drugs’, have been created in several other cities and towns.

Soon after the beginning of the program, the total number of overdoses dropped 12-fold: according to the medical emergency services statistics, there were 617 cases of overdoses in July 1999; 337 cases in January 2000; 154 cases in August 2001; and 49 cases in November 2001.

During 2009, ‘City without Drugs’ had 404 joint operations to arrest drug dealers with the Federal Security Service, Organized Crime Combat Department, Sverdlovsk Regional National Customs Direction, municipal police stations, and the National Drug control committee. According to medical emergency services statistical data, the number of overdose deaths dropped 1.5 times (86 cases in 2009 compared to 126 in 2008).

The non-existence of any kind of official recognition by the municipality is a great problem for the policy. Also, the field – the narcotraffiking environment – raises the problems of corruption, municipal police involvement, and all kinds of drug-dealing mafia problems.

Although Ekaterinburg’s ‘City without Drugs’ keeps encouraging the creation of similar programs in all the Russian settlements, providing assistance, recommendations, and training materials for volunteers on its web page[1], and has sent those recommendations directly to the Volgograd, Kaliningrad, Chelyabinsk, Perm, Nizhniy Tagil, Kirovograd, and Neviansk municipal administrations, the replicability of the policy remains quite problematic. This is mainly due to the ‘original’, ‘principal’ problems of the field mentioned previously.

In order to succeed, the policy should be implemented at a more official level. It would need to distinguish itself from the ‘formal’ and ‘dead’ character of existing municipal programs that have no confidence among the cities inhabitants, generally regarded as ‘paper programs’ of no practical use, and would gain a participatory element lacking in those programs. The ‘officialization’ of a similar type of program could also help control the numerous volunteer drug-concerning activities.

Although we cannot say there are completely successful cases of the policy’s re-implementation, a public discussion on drug-prevention policies in the Russian Federation arose around those re-implementation attempts, which will certainly bring results.