Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Summary of Responses to Disorderly Youth in Public Places

The table below summarizes the responses to disorderly youth in public places, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they should work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

Creating Alternative Legitimate Places and Activities for Youth
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
1Creating new places for youth to congregate, and providing alternative activities Removes excuses for youth to hang out and be disorderly in public, for lack of anything else to do…there are few or no alternative legitimate activities for youth in the areaPolice can support creating alternative places and activities, but should be careful not to become solely responsible for running those places and activities
2Providing outreach services to youth Identifies more serious problems of some youth, such as substance abuse, child abuse, mental illness, etc.the young people causing the problems are suspected to have more serious individual problems and needsRequires resource commitments from professionals outside of the police department
3Employing youth at businesses negatively affected by disorderly behavior Promotes a greater sense of responsibility among youth for maintaining order in those places

there is viable employment in the area, and young people have skills that match employers' needs

Business owners must be willing to employ youth
4Ensuring youth have adequate transportation to and from eventsRemoves excuses for youth to be on the street before and after eventsexisting transportation is inadequateMay require additional expenditures from public transportation companies
Modifying Public Places to Discourage Disorderly Behavior
#ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
5Encouraging youth to gather where they will not disturb others Separates youth from likely complainantsthere are viable alternative places for youth to gather in the areaMay require negotiation because police may not be able to force youth to move; may require place managers' or property owners' cooperation to allow youth to congregate
6Avoiding locating businesses that attract youth where others will be intimidated by themSeparates youth from likely complainantsthere are alternative sites for the youth-oriented businessesRequires the cooperation of people such as mall managers; youth-oriented businesses may object to being moved away from the main flow of consumers
7Reducing the comfort level, convenience or attraction of popular youth gathering places Discourages youth from congregating in a particular placethe changes are not unduly burdensome on legitimate users of the placeMay require additional expenditures to redesign the place; may discourage legitimate uses of the place; may displace youth to a more problematic location
8Installing and monitoring closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras Increases the ability of police or private security to detect disorder and respond quickly; increases the likelihood that offenders can be identified later; discourages youth from engaging in disorderly behavior in view of the camerapolice or private security has the resources to monitor CCTVCameras must be protected from vandalism; monitoring is labor-intensive; evaluations of CCTV show mixed effectiveness; some communities object to public CCTV on privacy grounds
Establishing and Enforcing Rules of Conduct for Youth
#ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
9Enlisting others to exercise informal social control over youth Provides help from others in controlling youthyouth value their relationship with those seeking to exercise informal social control over themPolice must be careful not to support draconian or abusive forms of punishment
10Establishing clear rules of conduct, and educating youth about themClarifies what conduct is and is not acceptable; removes excuses for unacceptable behaviorrules are simple, fair and clearly conveyedRules must not violate youths' constitutional rights; if youth perceive rules to be unfair, it may exacerbate tension and mistrust between youth and authorities, including police
11Mediating conflicts between youth and complainants Helps youth and complainants better understand one another's concerns and perspectivesyouth and complainants are willing to listen to one another, and conflicts are relatively minorRequires mediation skills; may not be a valid response if offenses are serious
12Denying youths' anonymity Makes youth realize they can be held accountable for their actionsthe same individuals return to the problem location, and the same police or security officers handle the problemCompulsory identification and photographing of offenders must comply with applicable laws and policies
13Deploying police paraprofessionals to patrol public places where youth congregate Increases the level of surveillance of public places; imposes supervision on youth that is not as threatening to them as police supervision might beparaprofessionals are authorized by local law to patrol in public and are properly trained to handle youth disorderNeither the police nor the general public may support paraprofessionals
14Enforcing truancy lawsRemoves excuses for youth to be on the street during school hoursthere is a place where police can bring truants and quickly return to service, there are meaningful truancy interventions by schools, and likely complainants are educated about truancy laws and how to recognize and report truantsRequires support and resource commitments from school officials and other juvenile authorities
15Enforcing curfew lawsRemoves excuses for youth to be on the street at night, thereby reducing opportunities for them to offend and be victimizedthe general public supports curfew enforcement, and youth disorder occurs at nightPotential legal challenges to curfew laws and enforcement thereof; without public support, the police will appear heavy-handed and youth will be perceived as victims
16Banning troublemakers from private property Removes the worst offenders from places where they disturb othersprivate security and police maintain accurate records of banned people's identities and the time periods for which those people are bannedPotential legal challenges to banning that may depend on whether the property is deemed private or quasi-public
Responses With Limited Effectiveness
#ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If...Considerations
17Increasing patrol by uniformed police officersLabor-intensive and only temporarily effective
18Strictly enforcing laws against youth Labor-intensive as a long-term strategy; police risk losing public support by appearing heavy-handed