Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Summary of Responses

The table below summarizes the responses to chronic inebriation, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
General Considerations for an Effective Response Strategy
1 Educating the
community
about the
problem
Increases
stakeholder
acceptance
of responses;
improves police
understanding of
community needs
and concerns
....done consistently
and broadly at each
stage of response
planning and
execution
Community is not
single-minded;
may be multiple
constituencies with
divergent perceptions
of the problem and
different sensibilities as
to what constitutes an
appropriate response
2 Developing
community
support for your
response
Enhances resources
needed to address
problem; reduces
criticism of police
efforts to address
problem
....done consistently
and broadly across
many parts of the
community and
at each stage of
response planning
and execution
May require
considerable resources
and effort to develop
mutual understanding
of the problem's scope
and appropriateness of
the proposed response;
requires continual
reinforcement and
cultivation
3 Decriminalizing
public
inebriation
Shifts resources
from punishment to
medical treatment
which is more likely
to reduce chronic
inebriation
....if undertaken
by organizationlevel
stakeholders
whose shared goals
are mirrored in the
change
System staff may
have conflicting
organizational cultures
that are resistant to
change; staff may not
accept new procedures
or responsibilities
without considerable
retraining; can be cost
intensive and logistically
complicated; public
may perceive change
as condoning negative
behavior
4 Tailoring
interventions to
individual needs
Differentiates
between the various
needs of chronic
inebriates
....resources and
procedures are in
place to address the
demands created by
each group
Can be resource
intensive; may require
a great deal of planning
to make categoryappropriate
responses
available
5 Providing
integrated social
and health
services
Addresses various
issues that
compound one
another
....mental health,
housing, and other
social services are
integrated into the
broader strategy
Requires that system
staff coordinate
responses to ensure
individuals are given
access to whatever
services or treatment
they need
6 Training service
providers
to respond
appropriately
Improves
understanding
of goals and
organizational roles
and responsibilities
which improves
overall response
....each responder
understands his/
her role and
responsibilities in
the process as well as
that of others
May require a great
deal of planning and
education of system
staff, some of whom
may be resistant to new
duties or procedures
Specific Responses to Chronic Public Inebriation
Restricting Alcohol Sales to Chronic Inebriates
7 Prohibiting
alcohol sales
to chronic
inebriates
Increases chronic
inebriates' difficulty
in procuring alcohol
which reduces
overall consumption
and intoxication
levels
....police and
alcohol merchants
coordinate
efforts to identify
restricted
individuals and
restrictions are
honored and
enforced
May be resource intensive
to identify and process
restricted individuals;
typically requires
enabling legislation;
requires compliance of
alcohol vendors, who
may perceive restrictions
as detrimental to their
business; requires
consistent database
management of restricted
individuals
8 Establishing
alcohol impact
areas
Increases chronic
inebriates' difficulty
in procuring alcohol
which reduces
overall consumption
and intoxication
levels
....supported by
alcohol vendors in
the alcohol impact
area and if done
in conjunction
with the provision
of other social,
medical, and
treatment services
Typically requires
enabling legislation;
requires compliance of
alcohol vendors who may
perceive the restrictions
as detrimental to their
business; requires regular
updates to banned
products lists; requires
additional oversight of
alcohol vendors; some
displacement of problem
to other areas may occur
9 Restricting
panhandling
Increases chronic
inebriates' difficulty
in procuring alcohol
which reduces
overall consumption
and intoxication
levels
....panhandling
restrictions are
enforced
Laws prohibiting
panhandling should
be carefully drafted to
survive legal challenges;
some displacement of
chronic inebriates to
other areas might occur;
some increased theft of
alcohol might occur
10 Using sobering
centers
Reduces inebriates'
risks to themselves
and others; promotes
follow-up alcohol
treatment; reduces
criminal justice
system costs
....done in
conjunction with
the provision
of other social,
medical, and
treatment services
May be resource
intensive to provide
shelter for a large
population of inebriates;
often requires publicprivate
coordination;
may be negatively
perceived as facilitating
chronic inebriation;
short-term treatment
may be perceived as
wasteful of resources by
treatment staff
11 Providing alcohol
treatment in jail
or under court
order
Increases inebriates'
motivation to accept
treatment
....the inebriate is
receptive to the
treatment and
the treatment
is provided in
a sustained and
consistent manner
May be resource intensive
to provide treatment
for a large population
of inebriates; success
may depend heavily on
inebriates' motivation
to participate in the
program
Changing the Way Public Spaces Are Used
12 Restricting
chronic
inebriates' access
to public spaces
Removes inebriates
from places where
their behavior
causes problems for
others; discourages
inebriates from
misbehaving in
public
....small groups
of individuals
cause the bulk
of problems
and if done in
conjunction with
the provision
of other social,
medical, and
treatment services
May be resource intensive
to identify and process
the formal removal of
each individual; requires
careful attention to
individuals' due process
rights; some displacement
of problem individuals to
other areas may occur
13 Altering
environmental
conditions
to discourage
chronic
inebriates'
offensive
behavior
Alters the
characteristics of an
area that facilitate
undesirable behavior
....changes are
predicated on a
systematic analysis
of problem area
with consultation
of design,
engineering, or
transportation
specialists
Environmental changes
can be costly; may
require major changes in
traffic flow, architecture,
or other system-level
features; underlying
design problems can be
difficult to detect
Responses with Limited Effectiveness
14 Increasing
criminal
penalties
Intended to deter
public intoxication
and disorderly
behavior
....used as leverage
to promote alcohol
treatment
Chronic alcoholism
undermines deterrent
effect of punishment;
most problematic
individuals already
spend lengthy periods
incarcerated with little
deterrent effect
15 Conducting
enforcement
sweeps or
crackdowns
alone
Can quickly remove
large numbers of
inebriates from
public view
....done in
conjunction with
the provision
of other social,
medical, and
treatment services
May be perceived as
unduly harsh and risks
violations to individuals'
due process rights; may
be resource intensive;
likely only to remove
inebriates from public
view for short term