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Seattle's Radical Approach to Drug Crimes Is Working

New research shows the city's experimental Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, or LEAD, has helped dramatically reduce recidivism among participants.
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Back in 2011, the city of Seattle launched an experimental drug enforcement program that has been compared, if somewhat unfairly, to the infamous “Hamsterdam” episode of HBO's The Wire. Fans of the show of course remember the story: Major Howard “Bunny” Colvin, tired of fighting a losing battle, single-handedly decriminalizes drugs in a deserted corner of Baltimore and then brings in social workers to pass out needles and condoms.

On The Wire, the extralegal drug free-zone dubbed “Hamsterdam” was eventually discovered and shut down. But today in Seattle, something like a sanctioned version of Hamsterdam actually exists, and a new study suggests it works better than the traditional criminal justice system at preventing crimes.