PROBLEMATIC BEHAVIOR OR ACTIVITY
Gresham Police Department were responding to an increasing number of calls and complaints from residents about abandoned properties, transient activity, drug dealing, chronic noise, and other problems. The challenge with responding to these calls for service is that it pulls officers away from other more serious emergencies and incidents.
IMPACT ON THE COMMUNITY
Neighborhood livability issues such as drug dealing, trespassing, chronic noise, trespass and other issues don’t qualify as emergencies but have a significant, negative effect on residents.
In May 2014, Chief Junginger selected two seasoned officers – Daniel Estes and James Leake – to form the Neighborhood Enforcement Team (NET). Rather than respond to 911 calls for service, Officers Leake and Estes work to establish contacts within the community and through city enforcement agencies and other police officers help enforce existing statutes regarding chronic nuisance, abandoned property and exclusion orders. NET is a proactive unit that works closely with Property Owners, Property Management Companies and Neighborhood Associations to combat those issues. NET works in partnership with other Police units, other Police Departments and other City teams, including City of Gresham Code Compliance, Rental Housing, Department of Environmental Services, Mediation Services, City Attorney’s Office, Office of Neighborhood Involvement and with the Gresham Homeless Action Team.
NET uses creative remedies to solve neighborhood issues before they require full police action. NET operates off of the Broken Window Theory; take care of the small issues before they become big issues. NET’s philosophy is “No Call Too Small.”
Along with responding to resident calls and anonymous tips, the NET works with property managers and business owners to deal with problem tenants or improve safety on site by reviewing lighting, landscaping and other design features. The NET provides safety advice to neighborhood groups and safety training to local Realtors, who work alone and routinely meet strangers in empty properties.
BASED ON RESEARCH
Officers Estes and Leake are both CPTED Certified Practitioners recognized by the National Institute of Crime Prevention. Crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) is a multi-disciplinary approach to deterring criminal behavior through environmental design. CPTED strategies rely upon the ability to influence offender decisions that precede criminal acts. Generally speaking, most implementations of CPTED occur solely within the urbanized, built environment. Specifically altering the physical design of the communities in which humans reside and congregate in order to deter criminal activity is the main goal of CPTED. CPTED principles of design affect elements of the built environment ranging from the small-scale (such as the strategic use of shrubbery and other vegetation) to the overarching, including building form of an entire urban neighborhood and the amount of opportunity for “eyes on the street.”
The cost of this program is the cost of redeploying one or more officers to focus solely on these livability issues.
In its first year, NET:
- Made 734 premise checks as a result of resident requests
- Secured 144 abandoned properties to remove squatters and thieves
- Tagged or cleared 89 transient camps
- Made 65 arrests, most for criminal trespassing or outstanding warrants
- Conducted three safety design checks for property managers and business owners
NET successes are many, from recovering stolen cars to dispersing drug dealers. Many cases involve abandoned homes or commercial properties, where squatters or thieves can take over.
CRITICAL SUCCESS FACTORS
NET does not simply react to an issue and move on. The team gets deep into the community and strives to implement lasting solutions. The relationships and collaborations with other police units and city divisions are critical to NET’s success.
Bring the other city divisions and police units into the planning process early on. Their support is critical. Equally important, take the time to talk to people on their porches, in their parks, at their businesses. In just the first four months of NET’s existence, the officers spent 50 hours at community meetings and made over 2,000 citizen contacts.