Specialized Multi Agency Response Teams (SMARTs) are part of a team-based approach to reduce drug-related problems and improve habitation conditions at targeted problem sites.
As part of the Oakland Beat Health program, target sites are identified by police according to the number of emergency calls from an area, the number of narcotic arrests there, or special requests for police assistance from community-based groups. Sites can be residential or commercial, and they often experience multiple problems—from blight to squatters to prostitution.
Once a site has been identified, the police visit the area and meet with various stakeholders (such as community representatives, landlords, and business owners) to establish working relationships. Police attempt to communicate to the stakeholders that they (the police) are invested in cleaning up the area. The police suggest simple crime prevention measures and explain landlords’ rights and tenants’ responsibilities. Activities can vary by site and include alternative, problem-solving tactics (e.g., inspecting drug-nuisance properties, posting “no trespassing” signs) and traditional law enforcement tactics (e.g., the arrest of drug dealers, increased police patrols at targeted sites).
If these early measures do not lead to improvements, police deploy SMARTs to identify violations of various civil laws and regulatory rules. The team can include representatives from a variety of agencies, including housing, public works, fire, vector control, and the public utilities. These representatives inspect local properties, and when violations are identified to local fire, housing, or public works, vector control, or public utilities, the city inspectors issue citations. The most common citation is for violating the housing code. When violations are not rectified, civil laws can be used to bring suit against owners of drug-nuisance properties. In
The SMART program includes the Landlord Training Program, which encourages landlords to screen potential renters. The landlords also learn about the processes for evicting unsatisfactory tenants who are causing problems.
Field Contacts and Arrests
Green (1995) found that almost half of the treatment sites (45.8 percent) experienced improvements in rates of contact or arrest; only 13 percent (42 sites) grew worse. About 75 percent of catchment areas showed improvements in contact and arrest rates; roughly 20 percent (66 sites) grew worse. Forty percent of sites showed improvement both at the target site and in the surrounding area. Green found a statistically significant relationship between what happened at the target site and what happened in the surrounding border area. This relationship suggested that when police efforts succeeded in affecting target sites it often then spilled over into the boundary areas (diffusion of benefits). When such efforts failed, catchment areas sometimes worsened.
Number of People Arrested or Contacted
There was a significant decrease in the mean number of people contacted at the SMART sites: from 3.7 in the year before SMART implementation to 1.5 in the year following, a 59 percent decrease. In the catchment areas, there was a decrease from 42 persons to 32 contacted/arrested—a decrease of 24 percent. There were statistically significant reductions in the number in individuals contacted or arrested at the same SMART site (64 percent), in number of persons displaced from a SMART site to a catchment area address (35 percent), and in the number of new individuals attracted to a SMART site (76 percent).
These reductions suggested a small net diffusion of benefits from the SMART implementation.