• Center for Problem oriented policing

POP Center Responses Using Civil Actions Against Property Appendix D

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Appendix D: Applying Property-Related Civil Remedies to Alcohol-Related Disorder†

This section discusses the use of property-related civil remedies to address alcohol-related crime and disorder. These types of remedies have been used by police and others to address crime and disorder in individual licensed establishments (bars, pubs, and clubs), as well as in larger areas, such as the concentrated entertainment districts found in resorts or in revitalized city centers. Establishments that sell alcohol have long been subject to legal controls, from zoning laws prohibiting their operations in certain areas to regulatory codes limiting their hours of operation, number of patrons, types of beverages, and serving standards.

† For more information on this crime problem, see Problem-Specific Guide No. 1, Assaults in and Around Bars.

Table D1: Summary of Programs and Initiatives Using Civil Remedies in Response to Alcohol-Related Crime and Disorder

Program & Place

Statute/Code Used

Specific Problems &



Works Best …

Licensing Code Enforcement

Surfers Paradise Safety Action Project

(Homel et al. 1997)


Place: Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia


Queensland Liquor Act 1992

  • A community forum with community-based task groups and a safety audit was formed.
  • Risk assessments and model house policies leading to a code of practice for nightclub managers were done.
  • External regulation conducted by police and liquor licensing inspectors, with emphasis on prohibiting the service of intoxicated patrons.
  • Significant differences in the observational reporting measures were found for many of the recommended changes to the physical and social environments, security and serving practices, and alcohol consumption.
  • Violence and crime (inside and outside venues) decreased following implementation of the code of practice.
  • Some displacement of offending patrons may have occurred.
  • Later observational data show changes were not sustained.
  • If enforcement of the licensing regulations are seen, by those operating the clubs, as being maintained routinely by regulators

The Geelong Accord

(Felson et al. 1997)


Place: Geelong, Victoria, Australia


No specific code provision was highlighted

  • Measures to control pub hopping in CBD[meh1]  (which was associated with heavy drinking and violence) were agreed, as The Accord, among police, licensing officials, and venue operators.
  • Late-night measures included: limiting reentry, elimination of promotional drinks, and imposition of cover charges.
  • Recommended stricter ID requirements to address underage entry and drinking.
  • “Soft” data showed less crime reported and less obvious drunkenness.
  • “Hard” data showed that crime for whole city, including serious assaults, declined, but no police data for targeted CBD itself were available.
  • If both “carrots” and “sticks” were available
  • “Carrots” were increased revenues for publicans[meh2]  and less risk of violence
  • “Sticks” were possibility of less favorable treatment by regulators and police in the future if Accord not followed

Replication of the Surfers Paradise Action Project

(Hauritz et al. 1998)


Places: Three cities in northern Queensland, Australia (Cairns, Townsville, and Mackey)

Security Providers Act and Liquor Act (passed in 1992 to replace one passed in 1912)

  • Training of staff on patron care (responsible alcohol service & patron safety) was carried out.
  • Enforcers were trained about the provisions of the licensing legislation.
  • Security personnel were trained about crowd control.
  • Unobtrusive direct observations inside venues by patron-observers of aggression, drinking, and server practices showed:

(1) All forms of aggression and violence declined, except verbal aggression in one city;

(2) Improvements in most of the indicators of host responsibility in serving practices;  

(3) Percentage of visits with high levels of male drunkenness declined

  • Where other methods, such as civil liability suits, are seldom used and licensing law enforcement was not routinely carried out previously (as in Australia)
  • If responsible beverage services are strongly implemented since these affect the level of male drunkenness and resulting violence
  • If informal persuasion and the potential use of formal enforcement are both present and formal enforcement is seen by operators as being a realistic possibility

NRG (Energy) Nightclub

(Halton Regional Police Service 2002)


Place: Burlington, Ontario, Canada

Provincial licensing regulations, by-laws, and fire codes

  • Extensive parking controls were set up on site and in the surrounding business areas and neighborhood (through new by-laws).
  • Entry control—ID checks and metal detectors—were used.
  • Rapid response to on-site disorder instituted.
  • Training about signs of drug use and intoxication was given to staff.
  • Police were established as agents to control loitering at adjacent businesses.
  • Area patrols carried out by “Old Clothes Team.”
  • Decline in overall levels of crime were reported, as well as in assaults, car crime, and mischief.
  • Levels of enforcement for drugs, liquor violations, and trespass increased.
  • Checks by police, fire, and alcohol and gaming inspectors after measures instituted revealed no violations at this club.


  • If the responses to the crime and disorder problems include the venue and the surrounding area

Tackling Alcohol-Related Street Crime (TASC) Project

(Maguire and Nettleton 2003)


Place: Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom (City Center and Cardiff Bay)


Licensing laws

  • Enforcement of requirement that bar staff be registered and trained.
  • Policing and inspections were targeted at “hot spots” of violence.
  • Advertising campaigns were used.
  • School visits were carried out.
  • Offender program was set up.
  • Despite an overall increase in the number of venues post-start-up, a comparison of pre- and post- project periods for the targeted areas showed a 4% decline in the incidence of alcohol-related assaults.
  • A 49% increase in the incidents of alcohol-related disorder, although the rate of increase declined during the initiative.
  • If senior management in brewing and leisure companies are willing to engage in long-range cooperative planning in relation to crime and disorder problems (which was not completely realized in this project, probably due to competitive pressures for customers)
  • If bar staff registration and discipline proceedings operate more effectively
  • If pub density had been lower in a key area, with TASC/Police input at the planning stage of new applications

Underage drinking (Plano Police Department 2003)


Place: City of Plano, Texas

Liquor licensing enforcement

  • A large number of stores were selling alcohol to minors. Police identified that neither the minors nor the store clerks had any fear of getting caught breaking the law.
  • Police implemented special enforcement details to increase enforcement, obtain specific data on which stores were selling alcohol to minors.
  • Police used both prosecution and education of violators.
  • Police utilized confidential informants under the age of 18 to purchase alcohol under very controlled circumstances. Police immediately advised the clerk of the action to be taken against them.
  • In each case a report was presented to a municipal judge to obtain an arrest warrant for the clerk.
  • Police phoned the clerks and gave them the option of turning themselves in or be arrested at large.
  • A copy of the paperwork was sent to Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) for subsequent administrative investigation.
  • Police identified four main reasons that store clerks sold alcohol to minors.
  • Police utilized this information to educate the community and violators about the problem.
  • Police officer trained other officers on how to detect and enforce TABC laws more effectively.
    • The number of stores selling alcohol to minors significantly decreased.
    • There was an estimated decrease in sales of alcohol to minors of 75%.
    • Community awareness of the problem of underage sales of alcohol was raised.
  • If police utilize as many resources as possible to work on the problem, including the TABC store clerks, storeowners, and the media
  • If police reach out to the community to help increase their knowledge about Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission violations
  • If regular patrol officers are involved in the process to encourage them[meh3]  to conduct stricter enforcement on alcohol violations.

The Boogie!

(Anaheim Police Department 2007)


Place: Anaheim, California

Potential revocation of license

  • Previous police responses to crime and violence at location over many years provided only short-term relief.
  • A District Policing Team was established.
  • Two areas of responsibility were identified: (1) inside the club (Vice Detail) and (2) problems outside the club (District Community Policing Team).
  • The Community Policing Team brought together stakeholders: nightclub proprietor, Code Enforcement, and Traffic Bureau. Proprietor agreed to minor changes.
  • Despite ongoing engagement with nightclub, police training of personnel, increased enforcement, and increased security arrangements made by club management it became clear that even if the club operated in full compliance with all state and local codes, the potential for crime and violence to occur remained.
  • Special unit took full responsibility for all criminal cases—not distributed across specialized units.
  • This change revealed the club’s bouncers were actually suspects in 40% of all crimes reported at the club.
  • Behind-the-scenes investigation of primarily public records found that some club operators and principals had extensive criminal records, were involved in civil litigation, or in bankruptcy proceedings.
  • Notice of potential revocation of club’s license was given.
  • The proprietor quickly negotiated the surrender of his city business license and dance-hall permit, and agreed to sell his liquor license in lieu of the pending revocation.
  • The effective date of termination of these licenses coincided with the expiration of licensee’s liability insurance.
  • The club closed that month, with the property owner seeking a developer to build a large hotel.


  • If all cases associated with the establishment are channeled through one unit, then there will be clearer, quicker analysis of trends with stronger advocacy for presenting cases for prosecution

Operation Safe Clubs

(Miami Police Department 2011)


Place: Miami, Florida

Licensing and fire and safety municipal code provisions

Following a change in zoning restrictions for five areas of the city, two developed alcohol-related problems, including excessive noise and crimes.


Part 1: POP analysis lead to the following:

  • Increased direct enforcement efforts
  • Clarification of code provisions
  • Lobbying to eliminate conflicting provisions, and pass-needed provisions
  • Establishment of inspection protocols for the alcohol venues to follow
  • Timely and consistent inspections
  • Coordinated operations across agencies
  • Serious violations leading to immediate closures

Part 2: Analysis lead to the establishment of the following:

  • The Enhanced Police Services (EPA) to set up special response services as problems were developing
  • Sound Attenuation Program—including sound assessments during hours of operation

Part 1 outcomes:

  • Police reported 100% compliance with codes achieved by venues in areas.
  • Reductions in violent crimes in areas were reported.
  • Complaints from area residents about noise disturbances continued.

Part 2 outcomes:

  • Modest declines in night-time-related crimes were found.
  • Increase in arrests—possibly due to early reporting of incidents.
  • Sound complaints went down.
  • If there is a rapid response to complaints, which can lead to an amelioration of the problems at each location
  • If a high level of cooperation across the operators of the venues in the area is developed over time

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