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Dealing With Crime and Disorder in Urban Parks

Response Guide No. 9 (2009)

by Jim Hilborn


Urban parks are often difficult to police. Compared with streets and buildings, their boundaries are complex and ill-defined. Often the police don't have accurate data on exactly what crime and disorder is occurring in the urban park, or where. Parks are also difficult to patrol, they're hard to lock up, and it is difficult to install alarm systems in them. Natural vegetation, especially in parks with more naturalistic settings, often inhibits surveillance, and closed-circuit television (CCTV) is unlikely to be able to cover the whole park.1 There is usually a police response only when the "problems" in a park have gotten so bad that the public has demanded a visible police reaction. Until there is such a "crisis," the urban park isn't usually a policing priority.

Several of the Problem-Specific Guides provide valuable ideas for dealing with many of the antisocial and criminal acts that occur in urban parks, including the following guides:

This Response Guide doesn't emphasize specific crimes; rather, it emphasizes reducing crime and disorder in parks as a whole. It is intended to help police take an important leadership role in reclaiming an urban park from crime and disorder and ensuring that its facilities can once again benefit a broad spectrum of citizens. Though each individual park will need its own planned intervention, this guide looks at how a park's design, maintenance, and policing can affect its crime and disorder problems. To do this, it seeks to answer two questions:

This guide's core assumption is that the key to reducing crime and disorder in urban parks is for police to engage the local community in all stages of the problem-solving process, to ensure that (1) there will be a dominant legal use of the park, and (2) that local community members will act as natural guardians. The police must balance the legitimate demands of local politicians, city officials, urban planners, parks department personnel, etc., and deal with the different advocacy groups, as well as listen and respond to the local community's concerns and hopes for the park. There will always be many diverse and sometimes competing stakeholders, each with their own interests in the policing of an urban park. Despite this, there are many examples of police working effectively to reclaim urban parks, as seen in Appendix B, which contains summaries of some of these projects.

† For example, "New Yorkers for Parks" www.ny4p.org produces publications such as The Report Card on Parks 2007, to pressure New York City to maintain, and even increase, the park budget; and Tracking Crime in New York City Parks, to demand that the New York City Police Department provide more-detailed information about park crime.


The Place, Sense of Place, and Place-Making

To understand the urban park, one should start with the concept of place. At its most basic, place refers just to a location. In crime analysis,2 place is defined as "a very small area, such as an address, street corner, or block face." A hot spot is simply a place with a "geographic concentration of crime." The recent advent of geographic information systems has made it possible to be quite precise in locating concentrations of crime and disorder, even in public open space such as an urban park. Thus place becomes a very small area with a precise geographical location and boundary.

But place is much more than just a location. Places can acquire meaning. People develop their own sense of place.3 Potential users can see a park as either a place of safety or a risk to be avoided. A potential offender can see the park as an attractive place of criminal opportunity. It is critical to understand both the local community's and the offender's perceptions, because that will determine their use of the park.

Any place has a myriad of meanings attached to it - some widely shared and some idiosyncratic…When these different senses of place are both public and (to some degree) shared, there often is conflict over what the appropriate meaning of a place may be.4

Without such a personal sense of place, there is little investment in a location; instead, people see it as just a space, with no meaning or value. Without personal meaning there is little motivation to get involved in crime prevention or to cooperate with the police. In response, organizations such as the Project for Public Spaces in the United States, and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment in the United Kingdom, have been developing a model of place-making.5 This is a community-organizing process that involves local people in the design and planning of the environment, to develop a positive sense of place. Policing the urban park is in many ways a "battle for the hearts and minds" over the particular park's meaning to potential users (whether social or antisocial).

When police involve the local community in the reduction of crime and disorder in a park, they are engaged in a problem-solving process at a very specific time and place; they are also promoting community safety and strengthening the local community's sense of place. Thus there can be both an immediate crime reduction and also a more general and lasting community benefit. There is even evidence that, if people can access a safe green space such as an urban park, then there will be less crime and disorder in the local area.6

The Urban Park

The first modern urban park was designed in the United Kingdom in the 1890s as a solution to the social problems generated by mass urbanization. Today the park serves a wide variety of social purposes. An urban park is defined here as follows:

A bounded area of public open space that is maintained in a "natural" or semi-natural (landscaped) state and set aside for a designated purpose, usually to do with recreation. Parks are often enclosed by a boundary barrier, which may be permeable or semi-permeable (a hedge, fence, or wall). An urban park is as much a designed space as an urban shopping mall or a recreational complex such as Disneyland.

In understanding an urban park, it is important to look at the following:

The local community is defined here as people who live within 10 minutes' walk of a park, since this population is most likely to use the park regularly and to act as the park's natural guardians. Users from farther away are less likely to develop a strong place identity with the park.

The "Safe" Park

A "safe" urban park is defined here as follows:

A dynamic place where the design, maintenance, and policing of the park work together so that the general public perceives the park as a safe place, wants to go to the park regularly, and spends their optional time in the park engaged in valued activities. Crime and disorder is limited, and diverse usage of the park by different groups is tolerated. Legal activities are the dominant activities in the park. Because the local community values the park, it has a sense of "ownership" of it, and there are sufficient numbers of users who act as "natural guardians" to ensure informal social control. They also support formal interventions by park management and police when such interventions are necessary.

These are signs that people consider a park safe:

The "Risky" Park

A "risky" urban park is defined here as follows:

A place where crime and disorder has become the norm to the degree that local users consider the park unsafe, try to avoid being in the park, and limit their time in the park to necessary activities. Crime and public disorder such as vandalism, littering, dog-fouling, alcohol and drug abuse, and public sex have become the dominant activities in the park.

† The term "dog fouling" is used in the United Kingdom. Leaving your dog’s solid waste is more than just littering; it’s a health issue.

It is important to remember that most parks don't become problematic places. As an example, the following chart shows the concentration of crime risk in 28 parks in Chula Vista (California). Most of the parks have a low number of violence/disorder calls. Only a few parks have become "risky facilities"7 or are seen by the public as being "bad" or unsafe. Though all could be classified as parks, only a few places were risky. These few were very different places.

Crime Risk in 28 Chula Vista Parks (Over Two Acres)

Crime Risk in 28
Chula Vista Parks (Over Two Acres)

The concept of risky facilities is a new theory of crime concentration that further develops the idea of a hot spot. Bars, drugstores, convenience stores, certain neighborhoods, and parks are examples of places that people have often seen as likely hot spots. But the reality is that only a small proportion of any specific type of facility will account for the majority of crime and disorder problems experienced or produced by the group of facilities as a whole, as shown in the Chula Vista park system.

What makes some facilities more risky than others? The following factors can help explain the differences between safe and risky parks:

Size: The park is large and attracts many users, some of whom become victims.

Suitable targets: The park contains a lot of things particularly vulnerable to theft or vandalism.

Location: The park is close to an area with a high crime rate.

Repeat victims: The park attracts a few victims involved in a large proportion of crimes.

Crime attractor: The park attracts many offenders or a few high-rate offenders.

Poor design: The park's physical layout makes offending easy, rewarding, or risk-free.

Poor management: Management practices or processes enable or encourage offending.

The park will affect the local community. The park's crime attractors and generators can elevate the perceived neighborhood crime and incivilities, and thereby increase the local community's fear of crime. An exploratory analysis of parks and crime in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania)8 suggests the following:

Parks, like other public open spaces, have a much greater positive or negative impact than previously recognized. The "risky" park should be a high policing priority.

If the "risky" park is large enough, then there may even be several distinct hot spots or unsafe places within the park as a whole. Several different crime problems may exist at each location, requiring a separate problem-solving process. However, it is also possible that diffusion will spread a successful intervention into other parts of the park. ††

†† See Problem-Solving Tools Guide #10 Analyzing Crime Displacement and Diffusion. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services

A "bad" place or risky facility sends out cues inviting crime and disorder. An important part of place-level problem-solving is to identify these cues and then change the message to one that invites civility and order. The messages in a public space tell how people are actually using it. These are signs that indicate whether people see the park as risky:

Successful policing of parks is a deliberate combination of community policing and problem- oriented policing. Successful prevention in a park will usually involve (1) experimenting with different design, maintenance, and policing strategies until the right combination for that specific park and its crime and disorder problems is found, while (2) working with the different groups that use the public space to promote the active community participation necessary for long-term crime prevention and community safety.

A Park's "Criminal Career"

Places can change over time and become either better or worse. The concept of a criminal career can be applied to a place. There is a four-stage model of a park's criminal career that is based on a study of crime in U.S. and Canadian national parks.9 This model can help police assess a park and provide the correct response to the stage.

This four-stage model is shown here as a cycle of decline and renewal since the potential for either increased crime and disorder or recovery is always present. Parks are dynamic systems, and change is the only given.


Stage 1: Onset: The Threat of Disorder and the Rise of Fear

In the majority of the parks studied, problems started with what the researchers called "visible signs of depreciative behavior." Such depreciative behavior and related disorder are often seen as being "soft crimes" because of the relatively minor or nonserious nature of the offense. However, one can argue that if unchecked, then these gateway offenses lead to a spiral of more-serious crime and disorder by causing discomfort—even fear—in legitimate park users.

This version of the broken windows thesis may explain how parks can fall into disorder and crime if no one regularly maintains them. Poor maintenance sends cues that can encourage a potential offender. The would-be offender sees graffiti, vandalism, dog fouling, and litter as signs that no one cares or is in charge. It is a question of the perceptions of the potential offender and other park users. Inaction by park management may lead to increased and potentially more-serious offenses.

† The term broken windows is a metaphor. Briefly, it argues that just as a broken window left untended is a sign that nobody cares and invites more broken windows, so disorderly behavior left unaddressed is a sign that nobody cares and leads to fear of crime, more-serious crime, and, ultimately, urban decay (Kelling and Coles 1996).

It is critical that the park management and police pay attention to the signs of disorder, the potential for increased crime and disorder, and the community concern about such issues. The fear of crime is often more about the perception that there is an increase in crime and disorder than it is about a real increase.

Poor maintenance and conditions
such as litter, graffiti and vandalism send cues to would-be offenders that the
park is uncared for or that no one is in charge.

Poor maintenance and conditions such as litter, graffiti and vandalism send cues to would-be offenders that the park is uncared for or that no one is in charge. (Credit: Jim Hilborn)

As mentioned, successful park crime-and-disorder policing is a deliberate combination of community policing and problem-oriented policing. There should be a balance, since too vigorous a focus on order maintenance can damage police and community relationships. Having a good working relationship with the local community is critical for crime prevention and community safety in the park.

Stage 2: Diversification and Escalation: Whose Park Is It?

Public space such as a park will always be a "contested space." For example, a dog owner wants his dog to run freely, but a runner or a mother with small children wants the dog on a leash. And no one likes dog fouling. Such conflicts are inherent to the park: dog owners versus runners, the old versus the young, drinkers versus nondrinkers, etc. Policing crime and disorder in a park usually involves negotiation with a wide range of users to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution or solutions. If the conflict isn't going to be resolved peacefully, then one side or another must lose. Park management and police must pay attention to conflict between users and/or complaints from users. Such information can be a clear signal that the park's ownership, along with its use, is starting to change.

As legal use declines, the park can head toward a "tipping point" from safe to unsafe. The escalation of crime and disorder generally ends with a high-profile public incident that formally defines the park as a dangerous place.

It is clear that if park management and police don't sufficiently act to preserve the perception of the park as a safe place, then law-abiding users' perception can change, with the park no longer seen as safe. The perception that the park is becoming risky can quickly become a reality. The loss of trust in the park management and police can then lead to legitimate users' abandoning the park. It is important to avoid this by responding to people's concerns as soon as possible.

Stage 3: Risk and Danger

People usually voluntarily go to a park. The local community as well as "outsiders" visit the park. As people's perceptions, or sense of place, change from feelings of attachment and belonging to negative emotions such as unease and fear, the park usage decreases.

While there may be hot spots of criminal and antisocial activity, the perception of risk will often exceed the actual level of crime and risk in the park as a whole. People's perceptions of crime and the associated fear will not only prevent them from using parks, but also the negative sense of place can accelerate the speed of the park's abandonment as well.

Maintaining local people's trust and confidence in the police and park management is critical in preventing the park from being seen as unsafe. The negative perception and fear of crime are as critical as the reality. Indeed, the negative perception can be a risk factor that increases the probability that the reality of the park will become as bad as people feared.

Once people lose trust in the park management and police, the potential legitimate users will tend to avoid the park unless it is necessary. This avoidance will continue until people see evidence that the park management and police are reclaiming it from illegitimate users. The police and park management must regain people's trust before legal activities become the park norm again.

Stage 4: Assuming Guardianship: Taking Back the Park

In Stage 4 of the model, the police and park management take back control of the park. This involves (1) reestablishing guardianship, and (2) actively recruiting legitimate users to lessen the park's vulnerability to crime.

There are both passive and active measures that help to restore control.

Passive efforts focus on blocking access to the park or removing the physical elements that facilitate crime. Changes in design and maintenance remove criminal opportunities. In Boston's Franklin Park, for example, motor vehicles had almost unlimited access. Public safety began to improve only after the parks department blocked some of the old carriage entrances and protected the park's internal spaces from vehicular traffic.10 In other places, public areas used for illicit sex or for drug-related activity were opened up to natural surveillance through landscape management techniques.

Active techniques involve direct intervention by motivated people, such as legitimate users and/or park personnel, who organize the take-back effort. These people choose to become natural guardians of their park. The message now being sent to offenders is that "someone cares."

Boston's Franklin Park Coalition has worked to bring multiple law enforcement officials together to coordinate their coverage of the park and to share ideas and information. As a result, the local community no longer sees Franklin Park as dangerous.11 The coalition works to ensure that there is police response and park maintenance.

Deploying uniformed personnel to confront illegitimate users is the most common tactic used to take back an unsafe park. There must be a demonstration of the jurisdiction's willingness to confront people engaged in crime and disorder, and to use sanctions. The reclamation of New York's Central Park involved the development of park enforcement patrols and an urban park ranger program both to confront crime and disorder and to establish the highly visible symbols of police uniforms.

The Importance of Natural Guardians

Policing a park is as much, or even more, about working to promote and increase legal and acceptable activities as it is about working to reduce or eliminate antisocial and unacceptable activities. The American advocate of public open spaces, William H. Whyte, put it best: "So-called undesirables are not the problem. It is the measures taken to combat them that [are] the problem... The best way to handle the problem of undesirables is to make the place attractive to everyone else."

Source: http://www.pps.org/info/placemakingtools/placemakers/wwhyte.

Vandalism and litter easily destroy the pleasure of being in a "natural" park setting. This is the fundamental reason why a majority of users engaged in legal activity is so critical to the park's continued viability.

Natural guardians can help to ensure park safety. These guardians are just ordinary citizens going about their daily routines in the park. A guardian is someone whose presence serves as a reminder to potential offenders that someone is noticing. The guardian's behavior also communicates that antisocial behavior is unacceptable. Potential offenders know that such guardians are ready to involve the park wardens/rangers or police, if necessary. A local guardian can be anyone who values and uses the park, and who decides to take on the responsibility of safeguarding it. A guardian can be almost anyone—one's age, gender, faith, ethnicity, education, or ability isn't critical. The key is for the person to choose to be socially responsible. Police will never have the resources or time to provide such intensive guardianship. Local guardians will have to "protect" a safe park and police can encourage them to do this by educating them about their role (see Box, "Helping to Take Back a Park").

It can require a lot of police time and effort to regain people's trust and deal with their fear. People's fear of crime isn't going to disappear by telling them that they're safe, especially when they aren't, or feel they aren't. Fear of crime requires that the police and park management are very honest about the real risks, provide as much objective data as possible, offer constructive suggestions for personal safety, and show people that the police and park management are concerned and will do whatever is necessary and legal to regain control of the park. Once people are no longer too afraid, then some will choose to become guardians.

Helping To Take Back a Park: A Concerned Citizen's Guide

Be patient; reaching the "tipping point" takes time.

It can take time and lots of hard work before an abandoned park reaches the "tipping point," where it shifts from being frightening and dangerous to safe and full of life.

At some point, there will be a critical mass of positive activity, and the "feel" of the park will shift. Don't give up if it doesn't happen right away.

Don't put yourself in danger.

Drug dealers and other criminals who inhabit your park can be dangerous. Don't unnecessarily risk your safety by confronting them directly. There are many other effective strategies for making your park safer.

Don't go it alone.

Your police precinct is your most important resource for fighting crime, but developing relationships with the police takes time and work. Get to know the beat cops, your precinct's community affairs officer, and your precinct's commander. Go to the monthly meeting of your local police precinct community council, and let them know about the issues that matter to you.

Be the "eyes and ears" of the police.

Neither the police nor the park enforcement patrol can be in your park all the time. You can help by reporting any problems you see. The more you report problems, the more likely the police are to help you, as their distribution of resources is determined by the number of complaints they receive. You should also report problems about parks by calling 311, the city's information line, at any time.

Be specific about the problems.

Look for patterns and report them. Is there a particular time when kids hang out, when people sell or use drugs, or when dealers walk their pit bulls? Are there "regulars"

who make trouble? More details make it easier for the police and park enforcement patrol to focus on the problem people, times, and places.

Get on the agenda.

Go to every monthly meeting of your local police precinct community council. Bring others with you. There is no better way for the police to know about the issues that matter to you. Also attend meetings of your community board's parks committee, and of local block, tenants, and merchants associations. Don't forget elected officials, too.

Think about organizing a safety committee/patrol.

When done properly, having a group focused on safety issues and/or a patrol can prove a good supplement. But you must organize such groups carefully, and in full consultation with the park enforcement patrol and the police, if they're to be successful and appropriate.

Source: Adapted from Partnerships for Parks, a joint program of the City Parks Foundation and the New York City Parks & Recreation Department.12

Design and Maintenance

Until now, this guide has discussed the part that police and natural guardians play in efforts to rehabilitate a park. This section deals with design and maintenance, two other critical factors in restoring a park for community use.

The Park's Physical Design

Physical design will either be a risk or a protective factor. In fact, it may be difficult to do much about some of the risk factors, which can result from decisions made many decades ago when the park was originally laid out. Until recently, designers and planners didn't consider crime prevention as part of the design or planning process. But that is no longer true. In the United Kingdom, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) has prepared several detailed reports on park design and maintenance to reduce crime and disorder. Much of the crime prevention and planning literature, and the U.K. police experience with programs such as the Design Against Crime and Secured by Design, can also apply to parks.13 The planning department in the U.K.'s City of Nottingham14 has two graphics in its Design Guide for Community Safety in Residential Areas that illustrate the problematic and good design of two hypothetical parks occupying the same public open space. Here are some problematic design features the graphics identify:

† CABE (http://www.cabe.org.uk/) is a very good resource for anyone seeking a better understanding of urban design and parks.

Dense tree and shrub planting that obscures the view from open spaces
may encourage misuse and pose threats to pedestrians using footpaths.

Dense tree and shrub planting that obscures the view from open spaces may encourage misuse and pose threats to pedestrians using footpaths. (Credit: Nancy Leach)

In contrast, here are some good design features the Nottingham graphic identify:

Gates preventing
vehicle access to the park after hours can help to reduce crime and disorder.

Gates preventing vehicle access to the park after hours can help to reduce crime and disorder. (Credit: Nancy Leach)

Park Maintenance

Good maintenance and adequate staffing protect the park over time. In Decent Parks? Decent Behavior? CABE asserts the following:

The case studies in this publication link the decline in the condition of the park and the loss of facilities, with a decline in use and an increase in vandalism. This is no chicken-and-egg conundrum; it appears quite clear which came first. The parks were in decline and failing to meet customer expectations long before antisocial behavior started to become the dominant characteristic (2005:24).

The research clearly shows that a decline in a park's condition creates the opportunity for antisocial behavior to become dominant. Therefore CABE's first answer to crime and disorder in parks is to prioritize the staffing and maintenance of these important public spaces.

According to CABE, the decline in the condition of many urban parks was basically the result of a series of cutbacks made over several decades. Park budgets became vulnerable to cutbacks during times of fiscal crisis and often weren't a high-priority item for either local government or the police. Closing buildings and eliminating staff positions resulted in immediate savings. The long-term negative results were unintended but also very predictable. Police and park personnel couldn't respond to problems of vandalism, graffiti, and littering as quickly as in the past. The decline in park maintenance and staffing conveyed the message that no one really cared about the park and such "soft crimes." Negative park experiences led to reduced legitimate use, and increased crime and disorder filled the gap. As a result, by the early 1980s, people perceived many parks as dangerous, "no go" areas. The perception became the reality.

Then, usually because of serious crime and residents' complaints, park conditions became a political issue. Sustainability, smart growth, and urban livability were also becoming important on the political agenda. Research had started to document the social, health, economic, and even crime-prevention benefits of safe parks and other "green spaces."

In response to public pressure, local governments started to reinvest in park maintenance and staffing.  New private-public partnerships such as New York's Central Park Conservancy became a critical source of additional funding, grassroots energy, and innovative ideas. In New York more than 20 large park partnerships and dozens of smaller ones help to fill the gaps between public needs and park budgets. Even cities with generous park budgets embraced the concept of private groups' supporting the parks.

Today, local advocacy groups who argue that some recent private-public agreements don't adequately represent the local community's interests are challenging those agreements. Some agreements have given special interests too great a control over the park and have restricted the local community's use of the park. The solution should be a compromise between the competing interests. As mentioned before, the park is a contested space.

There are several excellent guides on how to deal with park problems.15 The key questions about park maintenance and staffing include the following:

Gathering Needed Information About Your Park

Every problem-oriented policing project is unique, and you should adapt this guide to address the specific problems your park poses. You should answer questions about its design and maintenance, as well as the "who," "what," "when," "where," "why," and "how" regarding its current use.

Walking in the Park

Understanding the park's physical design and layout as a whole helps to identify its risk and protective factors. For larger parks, there are maps and aerial photos, but it is usually necessary to walk around the area, looking at it from potential users' and abusers' perspectives. It is important to understand people's reactions. There is no good substitute for literally being in the park. "Walking the beat" is how police officers get to know their local community; the same applies to parks.

In doing so, it is necessary to ask a series of "what if I was" questions to explore the park's potential impact on diversity issues such as gender, culture, age, race, etc. As an example, a male police officer may need to consider how a female or older person might perceive the park both during the day and at night. Different users have different opinions about the park and its appropriate use. Identifying these differences is critical to finding and involving natural guardians from the local community. It is important to talk with offenders, victims, users, and local nonusers to determine what the park means to them.

The Physical Environment's Risk and Protective Features

You should audit the park's crime-prevention-through-environmental–design (CPTED) features to identify those factors that increase the probability of crime and disorder. These can be static (such as the geographic location, or offenders' age and sex) or dynamic (such as the maintenance quality or the offenders' attitudes). The audit can help to identify the factors you can change, as well as those that you should protect. The factors that can promote crime include those below.

† Some useful guides include Edmonton, Canada's Design Guide for a Safer City (1995) and its Safety Audit Guide for Crime Prevention (2000); The City of Nottingham's Design Guide for Community Safety in Residential Areas (1998); and material from the city of Toronto, available from the Project for Public Spaces. Also see Wekerle and Whitzman (1995).


Sight Lines

Clear sight lines are important as they let people see, without interference, what lies ahead.

Movement Predictors

Movement predictors are those lanes, paths, or tracks that follow a predictable pattern. People can easily be trapped on movement predictors if there aren't clearly visible escape routes.


Entrapments are spaces usually concealed from view that offenders can use to hide, trap unwary people, and/or conceal crimes.


Activity Generators

Activity generators are features that tend to create (or generate) activity. The activity may be positive or have negative consequences if it is inappropriate or a nuisance to others.


Usage Diversity

Formal Surveillance


People often decide to go to the more "wild" areas of the park to be alone with nature,  seeing only trees and shrubs and hearing only birds chirping. But isolation and reduced visibility also increase the risk of crime.

In Safe Cities: Guidelines for Planning, Design, and Management,, Wekele and Whitzman (1995) argued that planners should site activity areas near park perimeters, to enhance street surveillance. An active edge encourages use and creates a park surveillance perimeter. Instead of creating an active edge, planners often site major park activity nodes in the park's interior, not visible from the outside, and thus with little natural surveillance from the street.

There are more aspects to isolation that you should investigate while walking through the park:

Park Users

In formulating interventions, police and park staff need detailed information about who is and isn't using the park. The ability to give a number rather than saying "some" or "many" is critical for program design. If possible, you should gather the information in active collaboration with the park management and other interested stakeholders.

You should obtain the information through interviews, focus groups, or surveys. You should also try to include offenders in the interviews.16 Since the park is a public space intended to be accessible to all, identified offenders should always be welcome back if they are going to behave appropriately and be considerate of others. In one park CABE studied, by involving youths in the park's redesign and renovation, they committed less vandalism, they contained (legal) graffiti to designated areas, and less conflict occurred between them and the older users, since each group now had its own distinct activity area.17

In conducting an on-site survey of park users,†† here are some key points to remember:

(1) A survey should take only 10 to 12 minutes, at the most.  Pretest the survey to be sure it works within this time frame. At first, the interviewers may take 15 minutes to finish administering the survey, but after several days, they should take only 10 to 12 minutes. If not, then revise the survey.

(2) Begin with demographics.

Interviewers may be tempted to fill in many demographic points, such as age, race, and disability, but for accurate record keeping, they should ask respondents to provide this information. They will need to ask respondents where they live.

(3) Each survey should contain only a few questions related to a key theme.

Typical safety questions include the following:

(4) Do exit rather than entrance surveys.

As they leave, people may be willing to reflect on what they did, and you can ascertain both what they were planning when they came to the park, and then their feedback about what they actually did.  Ask them where they went, and have them point out the locations on a precoded map.

(5) Ask everyone what they did at least three times to determine the full array of their activities.

When interviewees tell you what they did, ask, "What else did you do?" Be sure to probe, especially so you hear about so-called passive uses. To "I played ball," ask, "What else did you do?" and you might hear, "Well, I took a walk."

(6) Look at local versus regional use.

People who live near a park use it the most. They are used to the park, and have a sense of which areas are safe and how to handle themselves. So when they hear that a bad incident happened in the park, they tend to think of it as unusual rather than routine, and they keep going there. People who live farther away aren't as familiar with the park, and vote with their feet by not going there after its safety is put into question.

(7) Consider asking people how they find out about park activities. From fliers? From posters? From the media?

The responses will help you gear your communication strategies to the appropriate audience(s).

†† See guides such as Conducting Community Surveys: A Practical Guide for Law Enforcement Agencies (Weisel 1999), or Surveying Communities: A Resource for Community Justice Planners (Paik 1995) for suggestions.

About 35 percent of the interviewees in a 1995 New York City Central Park survey had such deep, positive feelings about the park that they said they were willing to volunteer for it, and gave the interviewer their name, address, and phone number.18 Such motivated people will become the core of the community involvement necessary for long-term park safety.

Planning and Evaluating the Response

In terms of the SARA model, this guide emphasizes the scanning (collecting information) and analysis process. The response and the assessment (evaluation) of the response will be unique to each park and local community.

The detailed audit and the interviews, focus groups, or surveys obtain valuable information that you should provide to the local community, potential offenders, and other stakeholders. If information is power, then targeted communication is the key to crime reduction in urban parks. Law enforcement is just one tool police use to let potential offenders know that police will no longer ignore or tolerate certain targeted behaviors. The three-part goal is to:

The evaluation needs to assess all three dimensions. A reduction in recorded criminal and antisocial incidents is only one part of the evaluation. Is there also evidence of a change in the way people are using the park, so that legitimate use is dominant? Is there evidence of increased optional and social use of the park? Is there evidence that the local community is actively ensuring that there is less crime and disorder in the park?

Direct observation and interviews, focus groups, and community surveys should provide documentation of the community change. Appendix A lists key questions that will help in the evaluation and that may also suggest future activities to maintain the improvements.


Appendix A: Park Problem-Oriented Policing: Checklist of 10 Key Questions

Trying to answer the following questions will help you determine whether you understand the park and its problems and have a realistic intervention plan.

1. Where is the park in its four-stage criminal career? What evidence do you have for that judgment?

2. What is the park's purpose? Does the original design still meet current needs?

3. Can you describe the park as a whole? Do you have the necessary information from maps, pictures, etc.? Is the information sufficiently comprehensive, accurate, and timely? Are you clear about the park's location in terms of the wider environment?

4. Can you identify the physical environment's risk and protective features? Can you link the park design to identified hot spots? Can you see ways to change the design to reduce crime and disorder? Have you done a detailed safety audit?

5. Do you have accurate information about the park's current and potential users? Do you have information on intergroup conflicts and potential offenders and victims? Are you maintaining ongoing communications with all the groups, including the community, offenders, and victims? Do you have a media strategy?

6. Have you sufficiently involved the local community in collecting data, selecting and planning tactics, and implementing and evaluating interventions? Are you operating within the community's perspective? Are you dealing with the concrete issues that are important to and in the self-interest of the community? Do you have the community's trust and support?

7. Have you been working in partnership with the local government, park management, and allied professionals such as urban planners so that (1) interorganizational and interprofessional conflicts are contained; and (2) outcomes are SMART (specific, measurable, agreed, realistic, and timely)? Have you identified adequate resources (physical, financial, and human) and allocated them to the park and its crime and disorder problems?

8. Is the partnership committed to experimenting with different tactics until it finds the ones that are effective, efficient, humane, and just, and that also fit the community? The best measures of whether there has been a successful taking back of the park are (1) a decrease in reported crime and disorder, and 2) an increase in legitimate visitors' park usage?

9. Have you identified, recruited, trained, and supported a critical number of natural guardians from the local community? Is long-term support in place? Can they trust you for the long term?

10. Is there political commitment for the long term, with the necessary resource allocation to allow police and park management to identify and intervene at the early stages of crime and disorder in the future? Do all the interested parties sufficiently understand that keeping the park safe is an ongoing, long-term process?

Appendix B: Urban Parks – Problem-Oriented Policing Projects (summaries of submissions for the Herman Goldstein Award for Excellence in Problem-Oriented Policing, prepared by Joshua Henze)

Anaheim (California) Police Department – Parolee-Free Parks (1998)

Parole-Free Zones was an initiative to deal with crime and disorder problems in three of Anaheim, Calif.'s, worst parks: La Palma, Pearson, and Twila Reid. Police sent letters to convicts with narcotics violations in Anaheim. Police informed them that, as a new condition of their parole, police would immediately arrest and incarcerate the convicts if they found them in parks. Calls for service for all three parks fell 72 percent within the first year. Displacement proved minimal. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/1998/98-02.pdf

Appleton (Wisconsin) Police Department – The Park Rescue Project (2001)

Wisconsin's Appleton Police Department developed the Park Rescue Project in partnership with local residents, politicians, and government agencies to deal with citizen complaints regarding drunken transients in the city's parks. First, they enacted a local city ordinance to restrict park alcohol use. Second, they initiated a multiagency transient eviction program. Third, social services agencies collaborated with the police and park services to exchange information on transients regularly. Finally, they implemented CPTED principles by changing the park's natural surveillance and territorial reinforcement. In the affected parks, alcohol-related calls decreased 89 percent, and general police calls for service dropped 38 percent. The project improved safety and quality of life in the parks, as the community regained its sense of ownership, and the parks became safe places to visit and enjoy. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/2001/01-01.pdf

Baltimore County (Maryland) Police Department – Patterson Park Outreach Program (1997)

The Baltimore County Police Department's Patterson Park Outreach Program involved the creation of a community-police board and public forums to deal with problems in a local community park. Local residents, the police, the city attorney's office, and other city agencies worked together on specific problem issues/areas in Patterson Park and surrounding neighborhoods. Those involved used traditional and nontraditional methods, including law enforcement, nuisance abatement, and active citizen participation, to address problem tenants, litter, and drug trafficking. The project resulted in increased confidence and optimism among neighborhood residents. In the following year, burglaries decreased 35 percent, robberies decreased 17 percent, and larcenies decreased 15 percent. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/1998/98-06.pdf

Broward County (Florida) Sheriff's Office – Sheriff's Targeted Anticrime Response Team (2000)

The Broward County Sheriff's Office developed the Sheriff's Targeted Anticrime Response Team (START) project in response to an extreme quality-of-life deterioration and an increase in crime and drug trafficking in an urban park and surrounding neighborhoods of Dania Beach, Fla. START encompassed a four-phase, multidimensional approach that involved the police, local residents, community leaders, and state and federal task forces. Phase 1 consisted of an initiative to build trust and support through residential surveys and informal interviews, environmental assessments using CPTED strategies, and establishment of a community-based information-sharing network. Phases 2 and 3 involved traditional policing through criminal investigation and multiagency enforcement operations. Phase 4 encompassed program assessment and maintenance through a community-based advisory group. Along with large-scale arrests and asset forfeitures, the initiative had a positive impact within the community. Dania Beach's overall crime rate dropped 24.7 percent, and the overall clearance rates increased 46 percent. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/2002/02-04.pdf

Bryan (Texas) Police Department – Summer Sundays at Sadie Thomas Park (2003)

Summer Sundays at Sadie Thomas Park began as a result of citizen feedback received through a mail-in community survey and informal door-to-door police visits regarding 15 years of youth-related crime and disorder in a Bryan, Texas, local park. Conventional policing through uniformed patrols and presence hadn't reduced homicides, assaults, illegal drug sales and use, littering, loud noise, and traffic congestion. To resolve the problem, the police held meetings with local residents, community leaders, and city officials. They subsequently developed a two-step, community-based response. Step 1 consisted of police collaboration with the park service and transportation department to improve lighting, obtain trash cans, and post signs that stated, in part, no glass containers and no alcoholic beverages. Step 2 consisted of police collaboration with 15 local churches, community volunteers, and local media. The effort resulted in the creation of a rotational Sunday church-service initiative centered on worship and community events. Recreational use by families, senior citizens, and youth sports teams increased. Police calls for service significantly decreased. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/2003/03-03.pdf

Chicago (Illinois) Police Department – Gill Park Project (1997)

Gill Park, located on Chicago's north side, had been plagued by gang activity, drug dealing, shootings, and prostitution for generations. Parents had stopped letting their children play there. The park was revitalized through a multiagency and community partnership, and the application of Chicago's Alternative Policing Strategy. Residents of the affected beat cooperated with the police and neighborhood groups to develop potential solutions. They concluded that the park's layout invited crime, and the principal response was to modify the layout using funds from public and private donations and volunteer labor assistance. People trimmed foliage to improve natural surveillance and installed high-quality lighting in the park's isolated areas. A new baseball diamond replaced secluded areas and a problem concrete pool. Police officers started to conduct foot patrols of the park at strategic times to enforce city curfew and loitering ordinances. Gang-related crime and disorder in the park decreased, while parents' and children's usage increased. Reported offenses during peak warm-weather months dropped from 928 to 802 between 1995 and 1996, a 14 percent decrease. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/1997/97-08.pdf

Colorado Springs (Colorado) Police Department – Acacia Park Police Service Center (2003)

Colorado's Acacia Park is located in the heart of downtown Colorado Springs. The park had a 40-year history of being a crime magnet and staging area in the downtown and surrounding vicinities. This inhibited city-based redevelopment initiatives, impacted local businesses, and made the place undesirable for parents and children. Traditional policing methods of patrol and undercover operations achieved only short-term improvements. To make a longer-term impact, interested parties adopted a variety of traditional and nontraditional approaches. These included new ordinances, business-based partnerships, a CPTED survey, and the creation of a park police service center. Police calls for service inside the park decreased 55.25 percent, and calls in the surrounding area decreased 14.17 percent. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/2003/03-08.pdf

Delray Beach (Florida) Police Department – Merritt Park Neighborhood (1997)

Florida developers laid out Merritt Park in the early 1960s to provide neighborhood recreation for children living in the immediate area. Subsequently, the surrounding neighborhood began to deteriorate, with a resulting increase in crime. Conventional police attempts to combat the rising crime through special enforcement teams, drug sweeps, and surveillance met with limited, short-term successes. The police then led a three-prong initiative that consisted of redesigning the park, collaborating with a local homeowners' association and a men's advocacy group, and creating a police park task force. One year later, there was an 87 percent decline in police calls for service to the park. Neighborhood parents and children now freely use Merritt Park. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/1997/97-11.pdf

El Paso (Texas) Police Department – San Jacinto Park Renovation Action Plan (1996)

Beginning in the 1980s, El Paso's San Jacinto Park transformed from a desirable, historical Texas site to visit, to a place plagued with continual crime and disorder. Citizens began to avoid the park at all times. During the 1990s, the situation intensified to the point that the city, commercial businesses, and police came together to resolve the crime and disorder problems. The measures included renovating restrooms and recruiting a citizen advisory board, citizen volunteer patrols, and liaison police area representatives. A community reassessment survey the next year indicated that fear of crime had substantially declined. Area crime decreased 63 percent, while park use and tourism increased. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/1996/96-11.pdf

Georgetown (Texas) Police Services Division – Blue Hole Park Project (1995)

Blue Hole Park is a historical site in the heart of Georgetown, Texas. What was once a place of special memories for citizens and tourists had been ruined by alcohol-related crime, accidents, litter, and other problems when summer tourists used the park. An analysis revealed that a mix of alcohol, park geography, and out-of-town residents accounted for most of the problems. In a joint intervention, the police, community organizations, city council, parks department, and city attorney's office implemented a zero-tolerance policy reinforced by signs and new city ordinances that addressed parking and traffic congestion. As a result, the park again became family-oriented. Police service calls, litter accumulation, accidents, and traffic congestion significantly decreased. Pedestrians could safely walk, fish, swim, and enjoy the natural beauty of the park's landscape without fear. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/1995/95-24(W).pdf

Hamilton (Ontario) Police Service – Van Wagner's Beach Plan (2004)

Hamilton's Van Wagner's Beach, also known as "The Beach Strip," is a popular recreational area situated along the coast of Lake Ontario. Over time, youths took over parking lots and roads on the beach strip for drag racing, drinking, and using drugs. This increased local residents' and other lawful users' level of fear. After an unruly mob swarmed a police squad car, the police coordinated a response among city agencies, community-based groups, and local businesses. Recommendations implemented included using private security guards; CPTED measures to redesign parking lots, walkways, lighting, and access routes; and zero-tolerance enforcement of all criminal and provincial statutes. The Van Wagner's Beach Plan resulted in an overall 26 percent decrease in service calls, and the beach became family-friendly once again. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/2004/04-14.pdf

Los Angeles County (California) Sheriff's Department – Operation Outreach (1996)

In 1995, there were an estimated 200 to 500 transients in West Hollywood, Calif. After years of providing free services, city officials and community activists began to experience "compassion fatigue." The gradual elimination of social service programs left only a 45-bed rehabilitation center, and hundreds of transients who loitered, slept, and drank alcohol in full view soon inundated parks and other public places. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department established a special unit, Operation Outreach, to develop a community-based response to the transient-related crime and disorder. First, the unit started trading information with city government agencies and various community-based social advocacy groups. Second, government social workers rode along with deputies responding to transient-related calls. When no crime had occurred, police offered transients new options of shelter and social assistance. Third, deputies responded to loitering complaints by obtaining a "Letter of Agency," which authorized them to arrest trespassers without the owner being present to sign a citizen arrest form. Homeless shelter workers soon reported increased transient participation in social service programs designed to get them off the streets. Citizen complaints decreased, and county personnel removed 377 abandoned shopping carts from the streets. Operation Outreach was an effective, nontraditional initiative that addressed transient-related crime and disorder in community parks and other public places. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/1996/96-26.pdf

Los Angeles (California) Police Department – Barry White Project: Newton Crime Surveillance Team (2006)

Barry White Park, situated in Los Angeles' South Central area, had been neglected, and gangs and drug dealers overran it. The local response to the problem consisted of the creation of a police surveillance team and the installation of five surveillance cameras to record park images. One officer would monitor the camera system for crime and then coordinate with other police officers to arrest the offender(s) and locate any further evidence of the crime. Direct communication with the district attorney's office and a new open line of communication between police officers, park maintenance crews, and recreation staff was established. The project resulted in a 25 percent reduction of overall crime in the park and its surrounding perimeter, a 27 percent reduction of calls for service, a 45 percent increase in arrests, and positive feedback from the surrounding community. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/2006/06-28.pdf

Los Angeles (California) Police Department – MacArthur Park Revitalization Project (1996)

Thirty-two–acre MacArthur Park lies in the heart of one of Los Angeles' most criminally active areas. Crime and disorder, gang activity, transient encampments, and pervasive blight plagued the park. Faced with this situation, the Los Angeles Police Department implemented a community policing project targeting quality of life in the park in partnership with local agencies and community members. The police used foot, bicycle, and vehicle patrols in the area, while developing rapport and trust with local residents, park visitors, and area merchants. Various city agencies worked to remove graffiti, improve the environmental design, and mitigate narcotics and gang activity. A public education campaign was also a key element in the revitalization process. Gang- and narcotics-related problems decreased significantly. Overall, the target-area crime has decreased 24 percent. The true indicator of the project's success has been children's and families' increasing park use. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/1998/98-38.pdf

Mesa (Arizona) Police Department – South Grand and Rotary Park Project (1999)

Rotary Park is a small community site located in an older, lower-income Hispanic neighborhood in Mesa, Ariz..Over the years, it transformed into a location for drug dealing, a meeting place for local gangs, and an encampment for more than 100 transients. Local residents no longer entered the park, even during the day. In October 1996, the Mesa Police Department initiated a revitalization project in the South Grand and Rotary Park area. They collaborated with other government agencies and social organizations, as well as concerned citizens. Citizens formed a neighborhood committee, as well as a block-watch and citizen-patrol group. A nonprofit organization removed or renovated older homes. Citizens organized neighborhood cleanups, and the local Boys & Girls Club initiated a neighbor-helping-neighbor program. The police established a prosecution project with the city attorney's office to deal with repeat offenders. Police targeted drug dealers and criminal transients through traditional policing and a gang intervention initiative. Due to this coordinated and multifaceted response, calls for service significantly decreased, and Rotary Park was returned to local residents. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/1999/99-39.pdf

Montreal (Quebec) Urban Community Police Service – Carré St-Louis (1995)

Carré St-Louis is a public park in a downtown Montreal residential area. For some time, the park had been occupied by "troublemakers," who got drunk, sold drugs, urinated in public, and engaged in a variety of other crimes and misbehaviors. The police had responded cyclically and conventionally. Media pressure and police meetings with interest groups resulted in increased police presence and large-scale sweep-up operations. Once the police withdrew, the problems would reemerge. In a new approach, the police met with city officials to explore specific park problems. They also held public forums with local residents to draft an action plan comprising diverse strategies to address each park problem separately. Police received training in problem-solving and community policing; social service agencies provided free medical and health assistance; city maintenance workers addressed neglect and decay; police held citation mediations with perpetrators; and residents regularly held community-based events in the park to encourage visitors and solidarity. A survey revealed that 90 percent of local residents were pleased with the initiative, and Carré St-Louis was transformed into a safe place for workers, families, and senior citizens to visit. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/1995/95-48.pdf

Newport Beach (California) Police Department – Talbert Regional Park (2000)

California's cities of Newport Beach and Costa Mesa had experienced recurring transient-related crime in Talbert Regional Park, a 97-acre undeveloped preserve. Jurisdictional issues arose each time police agencies responded to service calls because the park was located between two municipalities and owned by county government. The Newport Beach Police Department decided to respond to citizen complaints about a specific group of homeless people trespassing on private property and using unsecured restrooms. Collaborative meetings with the three primary police agencies, social services, and community-based groups resulted in the implementation of short- and long-term plans. Park security improvements consisted of putting new locks on restroom doors. The police agencies formally established a call-for-service protocol agreement. They strategically relocated transients to shelters through three phases: notice, citation, and physical removal. Once they relocated the homeless, a massive cleanup effort ensued. A follow-up study showed that from mid-October 1999 to mid-March 2000, there was only one call for service in the park area. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/2000/00-23.pdf

Ontario Provincial Police – Project: Yogi Bear (1995)

Project: Yogi Bear was developed to reduce problems for visitors to Ontario's Bronte Creek Provincial Park. Random bicycle patrols had significantly reduced antisocial behavior during the park's busy summer, but calls for services and car thefts increased during the winter, when Project: Yogi Bear wasn't in effect. In response, the police, community members, and Canada's Ministry of Natural Resources expanded Project: Yogi Bear from a seasonal initiative to a year-round crime prevention program. It included a community-oriented police service center in the park, a structured community volunteer program, police bicycle patrols, and the development of "Community Park Watch." The program reduced the problems and contributed to all visitors' enjoyment of the park. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/1995/95-57.pdf

Plano (Texas) Police Department – Taking Back Friday Nights at Haggard Park (2006)

For six tumultuous years, a semi-organized group of gothic Texas teens created crime and disorder on Friday nights in Plano's downtown Haggard Park. Consequently, local residents avoided the park on weekends. After traditional policing and church-based initiatives failed to solve the problem, the police took several steps to make the park an undesirable place for the teens to hang out. With the aid of local government and the parks department, the police closed Haggard Park for six months for renovation. At the same time, the police gained legal authority to issue criminal trespass warrants in the park. The teens held their Friday night meetings at another city location and subsequently moved their activities out of town. Today, some teenagers still pass through the park; however, they don't loiter and commit crime. Citizen complaints and police calls for service have decreased, and local residents now feel safe to use Haggard Park on Friday nights. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/2006/06-37.pdf

Redondo Beach (California) Police Department – Redondo Beach Gang Project (1996)

In late 1995, local residents began to complain about intimidation, gunfire, drug dealing, and drunken gatherings at all hours of the night in and around Redondo Beach's Perry Park, in California. It became clear that the park was serving as an informal headquarters for the North Side Redondo (NSR) gang, many of whose members lived in adjacent dwellings. A preliminary legal injunction was granted and upheld through (1) police collaboration with the city council and city attorney's office, (2) hundreds of sworn testimonies and documented incidents of NSR-related crime and disorder in the park from police and local residents, and (3) the support of local citizens, media, and county, state, and federal authorities. The police legally prohibited NSR members from conducting specific activities in Perry Park and the surrounding 24-block area. As a result, the area has experienced a 38.58 percent decrease in gang-related activities. More importantly, local residents' perceptions of safety in the community have increased. Citizens now freely use the park for recreational activities. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/1996/96-42(F).pdf

San Diego (California) Police Department – Lewd Conduct at San Elijo Lagoon and I-5 Viewpoint (1996)

Beginning in 1994, the San Diego police received many complaints from local residents, motorists, and county park rangers about illicit sexual activity around the San Elijo Lagoon and I-5 viewpoint. Gay men were having sex in public and leaving used condoms, soiled toilet paper, and matted grass in the area. The police decided to address the problems strategically and collaboratively. First, with the cooperation of the district attorney's office, undercover sex stings successfully netted offenders for solicitation, along with traffic, weapons, and controlled-substance violations. Second, with the help of mainstream and alternative media, the police tried to gain the general public's and the gay community's support. Local newspapers and television networks ran stories about illicit sexual activity and about police undercover operations. Local gay and lesbian associations supported police efforts through public declarations and publication of health-risk material intended to discourage the gay community from using the sites for sexual activity. Third, the state transportation department and park personnel collaborated with the police to transform the environment by trimming vegetation, removing litter, and installing new lights, signs, and fences. Service calls and complaints decreased, but the police continue to monitor the area to prevent a resurgence of illegal activities. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/1996/96-51.pdf

San Diego (California) Police Department – Marian Bear Park (1994)

San Diego police initiated the Marian Bear Park project due to a long history of complaints about lewd sexual activity in there. It had once been a nature preserve for picnicking, hiking, and bicycling, but over time, it evolved into a location for illicit sex as a result of its secluded bushes and restrooms, its lack of electricity, and its official listing as a "cruising spot" in national gay publications. A combination of traditional and nontraditional police responses, along with the help of the city attorney, park committee, local residents, and gay community, reduced lewd sexual conduct in the park. First, the police videotaped everyone entering and leaving the park to eliminate the sense of anonymity the illegitimate park users enjoyed. Second, one of the two main gay publications stopped listing the park as a "cruising spot" upon receiving a written request from the police. Third, police posted signs around the park to discourage lewd sexual acts. Fourth, undercover police implemented solicitation sting operations to effect arrests and discourage illegitimate activities. As a result, illicit sexual activity decreased 80 percent, while families and youth groups have increased their park usage. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/1994/94-15(F).pdf

Santa Ana (California) Police Department – Santiago Park Project (2001)

California's Santiago Park encompasses 23 acres of heavy bushes, trees, and recreational facilities. For 20 years, local residents knew that gays were using the park's restrooms, trails, parking lots, and playgrounds for homosexual solicitation and illicit sex. Traditional policing tactics had failed as long-term solutions to the problem and, in response to political pressure, the police developed a strategic plan that combined conventional policing and problem-solving. Those involved in the initiative included the district attorney's office, community organizations, and the park and recreation department. Deterrence and reform tactics consisted of undercover stings, uniformed patrols, a hidden video camera, "stay-away" orders for convicted perpetrators, environmental modifications within the park, changes in the park's operating hours, and written communication on a solicitation internet website to announce police enforcement efforts. Since the initiative's implementation, police patrolling the park have noted a significant decrease in illicit sexual behavior. A community survey revealed a 78 percent decrease in lewd activity. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/2001/01-64.pdf

Vancouver (British Columbia) Police Department – Showdown at the Playground (2000)

Vancouver, British Columbia's, Grandview Park is in an area that drug use and dealing had plagued. Few children used the park's playground, and local residents walked around the park, not through it. Intelligence reports to the Grandview-Woodland Community Policing Center indicated a substantial increase in hard-drug sales and drug use in the park. As a result, the center declared a state of emergency in the park. To restore the park for community use, the police adopted an array of traditional and nontraditional responses with the assistance of local residents, an animal shelter, and community groups. Revitalization tactics consisted of police undercover stings, police surveillance operations, animal enforcement, the establishment of a volunteer citizen patrol program, and a community-based initiative that focused on restorative justice. After the response, the drug trafficking fell, police service calls decreased 80 percent, parents began bringing their children to the playground, and area residents returned to the park. http://www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein/2000/00-32(F).pdf

Appendix C: Recommended Web Sites

American Planning Association: http://www.planning.org

Center for Problem-Oriented Policing: http://www.popcenter.org

Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE): http://www.cabe.org.uk

Design Trust for Public Space: http://www.designtrust.org

ENCAMS Environmental Campaigns: http://www.encams.org

Geography and Public Safety: http://www.cops.usdoj.gov

New Yorkers for Parks: http://www.ny4p.org

Project for Public Spaces: http://www.pps.org

Resources for Urban Design Information: http://www.rudi.net

Smart Growth: http://www.smartgrowth.org

Trust for Public Land: http://www.tpl.org


[1] Burgess (1994).

[2] Clarke and Eck (2005).

[3] Carmona et al. (2003).

[4] Cresswell (2004).

[5] See Project for Public Spaces (2000).

[6] American Planning Association (2003).

[7] Clarke and Eck (2007).

[8] See McCord and Ratcliffe (2007); McCord and Groff (2008).

[9] See Pendleton and Thompson (2000).

[10] See Heart of the City, http://ksgaccman.harvard.edu/hotc.

[11] www.franklinparkcoalition.org/park-safety.

[12] See resources at http://www.partnershipsforparks.org.

[13] See Town, Davey, and Wootton (2003); Colquhoun (2004); Schneider and Kitchen (2007); Zahm (2007).

[14] City of Nottingham, Design Guide for Community Safety in Residential Areas (1998), www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk

[15] See Allen (2006); Christiansen (1983); ENCAMS (n.d.a); ENCAMS(n.d.b).

[16] See Decker (2005).

[17] See CABE Space (2005).

[18] http://www.pps.org/parks_plazas_squares/info/parkuse.


Allen, D. (2006). Fighting Graffiti: An Investigation of Causes and Solutions. Minneapolis: Standish-Ericsson Neighborhood Association (SENA). [Full text]

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Burgess, J. (1994). The Politics of Trust: Reducing Fear of Crime in Urban Parks. Gloucester, England: Comedia.

CABE Space (2005). Decent Parks? Decent Behaviour? The Link Between the Quality of Parks and User Behaviour. London: CABE Space. [Full text]

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City of Nottingham (1998). Design Guide for Community Safety in Residential Areas. Nottingham, England: City of Nottingham.

Clarke, R., and J. Eck (2007). Understanding Risky Facilities. Problem-Oriented Guides for Police, Problem-Solving Tools Series, Guide No. 6. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. [Full text]

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Colquhoun, I. (2004). Design Out Crime: Creating Safe and Sustainable Communities. Amsterdam: Architectural Press/Elsevier.

Cresswell, T. (2004). Place: A Short Introduction. Oxford, England: Blackwell.

Decker, S. (2005). Using Offender Interviews To Inform Police Problem-Solving. Problem-Oriented Guides for Police, Problem-Solving Tools Series, Guide No 3. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. [Full text]

ENCAMS (n.d.). Dog Fouling and the Law. Wigan, England: Environmental Campaigns.

--- (n.d.). Litter and the Law. Wigan, England: Environmental Campaigns.

Guerette, Robert T. (2009) Analyzing Crime Displacement and Diffusion.  Problem-Oriented Guides for Police, Problem-Solving Tools Series, Guide No 10. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. [Full text]

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McCord, E., and E. Groff (2008). "Urban Parks: Are They Amenities or Nuisances?" Presentation at Environmental Criminology and Crime Analysis Symposium, Anchorage, Alaska, July 24.

McCord, E., and J. Ratcliffe (2007). "A Micro-Spatial Analysis of the Demographic and Criminogenic Environment of Drug Markets in Philadelphia." The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology 50(1):43–63.

New Yorkers for Parks. (2007). The Report Card on Parks 2007 (May 2007, 5th annual report). New York: New Yorkers for Parks.

Paik, L. (1995). Surveying Communities: A Resource for Community Justice Planners. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Pendleton, M., and H. Thompson (2000). "The Criminal Career of Park and Recreational Hot Spots." Parks & Recreation 35(7):56–63.

Project for Public Spaces (2000). How To Turn a Place Around. New York: Project for Public Spaces.

Schneider, R., and T. Kitchen (2007). Crime Prevention and the Built Environment. New York: Routledge.

Town, S., C. Davey, and A. Wootton (2003). Design Against Crime: Secure Urban Environments by Design: Guidance for the Design of Residential Areas. Salford, England: University of Salford, Design & Innovation Research Group.

Weisel, D. (1999). Conducting Community Surveys: A Practical Guide for Law Enforcement Agencies. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics and Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. [Full text]

Wekerle, G., and C. Whitzman (1995). Safe Cities: Guidelines for Planning, Design, and Management. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Zahm, D. (2007). Using Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design in Problem- Solving. Problem-Oriented Guides for Police, Problem-Solving Tools Series, Guide No. 8. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. [Full text]

Related POP Projects


The quality and focus of these submissions vary considerably. With the exception of those submissions selected as winners or finalists, these documents are unedited and are reproduced in the condition in which they were submitted. They may nevertheless contain useful information or may report innovative projects.

Acacia Park Police Service Center, Colorado Springs Police Department, 2003

Antisocial Behavior at Harry Road Park, South Yorkshire Police, 2009

Barry White Project: Newton Crime Surveillance Team, Los Angeles Police Department, 2006

Blake Road Corridor, Hopkins Police Department, 2008

Blue Hole Park Project [Goldstein Award Winner], Georgetown Police Services Division, 1995

Carré St-Louis, Montreal Urban Community Police Service, 1995

Castle Park Whitehaven, Cumbria Constabulary, 2004

Gill Park Project, Chicago Police Department, 1997

Kingscote Park 2004, Lancashire Constabulary, 2005

Lewd Conduct at San Elijo Lagoon and I-5 Viewpoint, San Diego Police Department, 1996

Linden Park Project, Sussex Police (Sussex, UK), 2000

MacArthur Park Revitalization Project, Los Angeles Police Department, 1996

Marian Bear Park [Goldstein Award Finalist], San Diego Police Department, 1994

Merritt Park Neighborhood, Delray Beach Police Department, 1997

Operation Outreach, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, 1996

Park Life Merton [Tilley Award Finalist], Safer Merton, 2008

Park View 4 U, Lancashire Constabulary, 2009

Parole Free Zone, Anaheim Police Department, 1998

Patterson Park Outreach Program, Baltimore County Police Department, 1997

Project: Yogi Bear, Ontario Provincial Police, 1995

Redondo Beach Gang Project [Goldstein Award Finalist], Redondo Beach Police Department, 1996

Romilly Park Project, South Wales Police, 2004

San Jacinto Park Renovation Action Plan, El Paso Police Department, 1996

Santiago Park Project, Santa Ana Police Department, 2001

Sheriff’s Targeted Anticrime Response Team, Broward County Sheriff’s Office, 2000

Showdown at the Playground: A Community Confronts Its Drug and Disorder Problem [Goldstein Award Finalist], Vancouver Police Department, 2000

South Grand and Rotary Park Project, Mesa Police Department, 1999

Summer Sundays at Sadie Thomas Park, Bryan Police Department, 2003

Taking Back Friday Nights at Haggard Park, Plano Police Department, 2006

Talbert Regional Park, Newport Beach Police Department, 2000

The Park Rescue Project, Appleton Police Department, 2001

Van Wagner’s Beach Plan, Hamilton Police Service, 2004