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Your analysis of your local problem should give you a better understanding of the factors contributing to it. Once you have analyzed your local problem and established a baseline for measuring effectiveness, you should consider possible responses to address the problem.
The following response strategies provide a foundation of ideas for addressing your particular problem. These strategies are drawn from a variety of research studies and police reports. Several of these strategies may apply to your community's problem. 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. Do not limit yourself to considering what police can do: give careful consideration to who else in your community shares responsibility for the problem and can help police better respond to it.
Because a drug market can become entrenched fairly quickly, budding drug markets should not be ignored. Early intervention makes good use of scarce police resources since entrenched drug markets are fertile ground for other criminal activity.§
§ During this stage, officers will also assess the resources available to them (personnel, equipment, time, money, etc.) and the political sentiment of the community and government administrators (police, mayoral, legislative, prosecutorial) toward civil, criminal and other remedies.
In addition, the property owner might incur these typical financial costs:
|$ 500||Average cost if drug dealer simply stops paying rent for one month|
|$ 50||Dispossessor warrant|
|$ 25||Writ of possession|
|$ 250||Loss of rent due to tenant turnover|
|$ 150||Labor costs of a painter|
|$ 100||Paint costs|
|$ 100||General cleaning of apartment|
|$ 40||Carpet cleaning|
|$1,215||Cost to property owner (if there is no damage to the apartment)§|
§ Officer Tracy Walden, Savannah (Georgia) Police Department, uses these estimates to show owners of apartment complexes where drug dealing is occurring just how significant the cost of one dealer can be to their bottom line. In San Diego, some dealers in apartment complexes file for bankruptcy when faced with eviction, adding six more months to the eviction process (and a loss of six months in unpaid rent). In addition, other tenants sometimes bail out of their leases if drug dealing occurs on a property, increasing the number of vacancies and loss of monthly rent.2. Enforcing laws and agreements violated by drug dealing in privately owned apartment complexes. When selecting responses, consider which specific laws and agreements are violated by drug dealing in open or closed markets.
Example: Police, fire, building, code enforcement, recreation, and planning departments in Ontario, California, met to prioritize crime hot spots there. The team conducted site visits and met with apartment owners. They worked with renters "to unite them in demanding better property management." They trained apartment managers to find responsible renters, and informed owners of their rights and responsibilities. Lowinterest loans were available to owners who conformed to city codes; civil and criminal remedies were reserved for those who did not. The team recruited city services for cleanup and repair, as well as for creating recreation programs for children. Property values increased in the target area and in the surrounding areas. After the interventions, the target area experienced significant declines in calls for city services (which were now responded to through the joint efforts of city government and property managers). Parts of the target area experienced up to a 73 percent decrease in complaints to city agencies concerning conditions and problems at the properties.4
Appendix A outlines a wider range of possible responses to drug dealing in apartment complexes than is presented here. Here we discuss only those responses that have been evaluated through research. It will be evident that some of those most used by police have more limited effectiveness than previously thought.3. Applying intensive police enforcement. Research suggests that intensive police enforcement at drug hot spots, sometimes referred to as "sweeps" or "crackdowns," has an impact on some buyers, particularly those who want to buy only at markets where the risk of arrest is low. However, intensive enforcement alone can have other, perhaps unintended, consequences. These include alienation of lawabiding community members stopped and questioned, and displacement of drug dealing indoors, thus making it more resistant to police interventions. In addition, because intensive police enforcement is by its very nature temporary, the impact is often only short-term and dependent on the resiliency of the market and the buyers.§ Use of this tactic may also give law-abiding tenants and the property owner the unrealistic notion that a drug market is solely a police problem. Some officers have argued that intensive enforcement shows the community that the police care about the problem; however, some of the unintended effects may, in fact, have the opposite result.§§
§ In one study in Kansas City, Missouri, the effect of intensive enforcement, including undercover buys, warrant searches and arrests, lasted only two weeks, after which it almost completely disappeared (Sherman and Rogan 1995).
§§ Other approaches involving the property owner and tenants may have significantly longer-term impact, leaving these two groups better equipped to handle similar problems in the future.4. Arresting dealers and buyers. Arrest is effective if local courts are willing to impose meaningful sentences on dealers and buyers. This often depends on jail and prison overcrowding and on the number of prior convictions of an arrestee. In many cases, the courts allow those arrested for selling drugs to plead to lesser offenses, or release them on bail between arrest and trial or arrest and plea-bargaining. It is estimated that more than 90 percent of filed criminal cases nationwide result in plea-bargaining. Appendix B provides more details about drugs and the criminal justice system.
§ On several occasions, police agencies in National City and Fontana, California, collaborated with community development or housing agencies to offer "fixer upper" grants to property owners who initially balked at the expense of crime prevention and code compliance improvements.6. Making physical changes at the property. Limiting access may deter some buyers because it increases their effort in purchasing drugs, but limiting access may also deter the police from entering the property. Limiting escape routes can increase buyers' and dealers' risk of getting caught. As for lighting, dealers may prefer it to be good so that they can better see their customers and the police. Good lighting also reduces the risk that the dealer will get robbed, because it increases the probability of the dealer's identifying the robber.
There is evidence that if displacement occurs, it is not one-for-one. In other words, displacement may be only partial, not enough to cancel the benefits of the countermeasures because the displaced criminal activity lessens and is, as a result, more manageable for the police and community to address.
Displacement indoors. Intensive enforcement alone can displace an open market indoors. Driving a market indoors negatively impacts it, decreasing its customer base because it must rely on word of mouth for advertisement, rather than visual cues. Also, an indoor market is less convenient to buyers (they must park, not just stop momentarily), and buyers may feel less safe, as they now have to enter dealers' homes. However, residents of an apartment complex may not find this a complete solution. Property management must improve to rid the complex of the market.
Displacement nearby. If property management becomes effective, an apartment-complex drug market must close down or move. A review of the displacement literature suggests that there may be ways to minimize nearby displacement.
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