Austin Police To Pursue Quality Of Life Crimes

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Community police officers in Austin, Tx., will gain the power to issue tickets for quality-of-life violations like trash dumping, says the Austin Chronicle. One officer, noting a trash pile, said, “It sure would be nice to be able to say, ‘Hey, pick up your trash,'” and in the absence of a response to write a ticket for illegal dumping. That, he says, might convince people not to dump their trash there. “It would be nice to have some bite to it.”

In Austin’s North Central Area Command (NCAC), by year’s end officers will have the training (and ticket books) needed to add “code enforcement” to the list of weapons they use to fight urban blight. Attacking the problem of distressed neighborhoods by combining traditional law enforcement techniques with aggressive and proactive community policing is a top priority.

Long before last Sept. 1, when the NCAC was established, its officers were developing a plan to turn the area around. By design, the NCAC encompasses several of the city’s highest crime areas (where police call loads are the greatest). The area has a large immigrant community and a many rental properties. Parks and neighborhood recreation areas are few and far between, and the area is ringed by businesses that are increasingly industrial.

The police strategy for turning around the area’s pockets of neglect borrows from the “broken windows” theory of policing–that after signs no one cares about an area, crime moves in and quality of life diminishes.

The North Central police theorize that the opposite can also be true: If they can clean up the “signs of crime” and educate and empower residents to take pride in and responsibility for their neighborhood, then crime should drop and the area should flourish. Within the NCAC they’ve got a name for this: Operation Restore Hope. Armed with a plan and a penchant for teamwork, the North Central community-policing gurus intend to clean up the urban core.

Link: http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2004-05-07/pols_feature.html

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