The agency now uses 2012 data based on national retail sales compiled by the White House; it previously had used 2014 Drug Enforcement wholesale prices specific to Texas.Experts in the story explained why the number DPS used previously is more accurate:
As a result of the new accounting methodology, the agency said that more than $1.8 billion in illegal drugs had been seized during Operation Strong Safety, the state’s enhanced law enforcement effort in the Rio Grande Valley that began last summer.
Under its previous illegal drug price formula, the seizures would have been worth about $161 million, less than one-tenth of the figure presented to the Legislature and state leaders.
many criminologists say describing bulk seizures with retail-level prices presents a skewed picture of the value of the drugs when they were seized.Still, I think this gives a good baseline for evaluating DPS' assertions of success in its border surge. Take what they claim to have done, divide it by ten, and you'll come close to assessing the real impact of their spurious, redundant border work. The idea that Texas would spend $815 million more on this boondoggle beggars belief. But we're in a through-the-looking-glass moment when failure is success and money apparently is no object. It remains to be seen whether state leadership cares at all about how this money is spent. So far, they seem perfectly willing to throw good money after bad without, apparently, caring a whit about whether it's worth the bang for the buck.
Peter Reuter, a senior economist with the RAND Corporation and criminology professor at the University of Maryland, said wholesale prices better measure the impact of the seizures on criminal organizations. “It’s more important to get a sense of the cost you have imposed on the traffickers,” he said. “But (higher retail prices) sound better. I don’t think it’s more complicated than that.”
Jonathan Caulkins, a professor of Operations Research and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University, said many law enforcement agencies use retail prices because they are higher, but that “it would be more logical to value at the replacement cost for the organization.”
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