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Controlling Drugs and Social Disorder Using Civil Remedies: Final Report of a Randomized Field Experiment in Oakland, California

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 1998
104 pages
An experimental program conducted in Oakland, Calif., from January 1994 through March 1997 focused on how the police use of civil remedies to address the physical decay of targeted commercial establishments, private homes, and rental properties affected the control of problems of drug law offenses and disorder.
Fifty street blocks were randomly assigned to the Oakland Police Department's Beat Health program; the other 50 street blocks were randomly assigned to the general patrol division. Drug dealing was reported as a major problem prior to the start of the experiment in approximately three-quarters of the locations in both the control and experimental sites. Other complaints included rat and roach infestations, prostitution, trespassing, problems with animals such as pit bulls, and other health and welfare issues. Police actions in the Beat Health areas included inspections, citations, warning letters, beat orders, working with property owners to evict troublesome tenants, and property cleanups. Analysis of 1,765,461 call incidents revealed significantly greater increases in drug call incidents in the control area than in the experimental area. The two areas were similar with respect to calls related to violent crimes, property crimes, and disorders. However, observed signs of disorder increased more in the control area than in the experimental area. Findings indicated that police efforts to affect drug and disorder problems can be effective independent of the existing social climate on a street block and also indicated the importance of effective place management independent of police efforts. Overall, the study concluded that fairly simple and expedient civil remedies applied by police officers with the help of municipal agencies are effective in reducing drug and disorder problems. Figures, tables, footnotes, appended maps and instrument, and 73 references

Date Published: May 1, 1998