Responses to the Problem of Disorder at Day Laborer Sites
Your analysis of your local problem should give you a better understanding
of the factors contributing to it. Once you have analyzed your local problem
and established a baseline for measuring effectiveness, you should consider
possible responses to address the problem. The following response strategies
provide a foundation of ideas for addressing your particular problem. These
strategies are drawn from a variety of studies and police reports. Several of
these strategies may apply to your community’s problem. 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. Do not limit yourself to
considering what police can do: give careful consideration to who else in your
community shares responsibility for the problem and can help police better
respond to it. The responsibility of responding, in some cases, may need to be
shifted toward those who have the capacity to implement more effective
responses. (For more detailed information on shifting and sharing
responsibility, see Response Guide No. 3, Shifting and Sharing Responsibility
for Public Safety Problems).
General Principles for an Effective Strategy
You should consider a few general principles when developing
your response strategy. Which particular responses you adopt should depend on
what you learn from a careful analysis of your local problem. This should
include an understanding of your community’s attitudes toward day laborers and
illegal immigrants. In places where there are strong anti-illegal immigrant
sentiments, perceptions of police aiding day laborers could lead to citizen
backlash against the agency. Conversely, arresting day laborers and other
enforcement tactics may lead to resentment of police by citizens in communities
that are sympathetic to illegal immigrants. In either case, community
perceptions will have to be considered in formulating your response.
Strategies that focus exclusively on arresting day laborers
or enforcing immigration laws are unlikely to be effective in the long term. Strategies that seek to reduce the harms caused by day laborer sites rather
than those that seek to eliminate day laboring altogether are more likely to
work. An effective strategy should not only deter problems associated with day
laborer sites, but also must provide an appropriate location and manner in
which to carry out day laboring. This will entail sanctioning prohibited
behaviors and encouraging agreed-to procedures for soliciting day-labor work.
This might include establishing a designated location and creating rules. It
usually requires cooperation among police, other government agencies, community
service groups, local merchants, employers, and day laborers themselves.
Specific Responses to Reduce Disorder at Day Laborer
Managing Day Laboring
- Improving the organization at current day
laborer sites. Problems stemming from day laboring may not require new
day-laboring sites; rather, better management of the ones that exist may be the
solution. Creating and posting rules and procedures for laborers and employers
to follow, placing trash containers and portable or permanent restrooms at the
site, and so on, will reduce some of the associated problems. Enlisting
managers to oversee the area will also reduce problems. These managers can be
government employees, police officers, citizen volunteers, or community service
- Imposing time restrictions on day labor
activities. Some communities have implemented time restrictions on when day
laborers are allowed to solicit work.
 Allotting certain times of the day enables police to manage the process without having to devote substantial manpower to additional hours. It also reduces
problems associated with laborers who linger around the site throughout the
day. Time restrictions can be permanent or temporary, until a new day labor
center is constructed.
- Establishing new day labor centers. Many
communities have established new day labor centers. The advantage of this approach is that the center can be constructed from the
beginning and designed to eliminate the problems found at the day labor site. A
suitable location can be selected and the facility can be built to accommodate
day labor activity efficiently. The disadvantages are that it will require more
funding and time spent getting it approved and built. It will also require
other measures to ensure that laborers and employers actually use the center.
The site can be either managed or unmanaged. Managed sites will be more orderly
and have fewer problems.
- Using volunteers to manage day labor centers. Using volunteers to manage day labor centers can help to reduce costs.
Volunteers can include area residents and merchants, and religious or other
community groups. In some places, day laborers themselves volunteer to help run
the centers. However, volunteers alone are insufficient to manage the site. The center will
need ongoing police oversight and support.
Soliciting help from area merchants. Area
merchants can help in establishing day labor centers. They can provide material
and financial assistance in building the centers. For instance, in Glendale, Calif., a
n affected Home Depot donated building supplies for a new center.
Merchants can also prove instrumental in working with police to ensure
compliance among employers and laborers with newly adopted ordinances and
procedures. Lastly, merchants can be enlisted to help in the ongoing management
and administration of day labor centers.
- Obtaining grants and other financial support. Some communities have received city and private funding to build day labor centers.
Community Development Block Grants have also been awarded. Other communities have established city- and privately funded nonprofit
organizations. To do this, it will be necessary to estimate how much funding will be required,
and to identify entities with an interest in establishing and maintaining an
orderly day laborer center. Because illegal immigration is politically
sensitive, obtaining public funds to manage them may be difficult. You may be
more successful obtaining financial support from non-governmental entities.
- Creating and enforcing rules and procedures at
day labor centers and sites. Part of managing day labor centers involves
establishing rules of conduct and procedures for laborers and employers to
follow. In some communities, this has been a collective process where laborers
and employers help to create the rules and procedures. This democratic process
should ensure acceptance by the participants and will facilitate successful
self-policing among them. The rules and procedures should, at a minimum,
include the following:
In addition to setting rules and procedures, sanctions will
also be required to deter violations. Conditions could be attached to the
prohibitive behaviors, such that those who violate the rules are temporarily
banned from the center or site, in addition to arrest if the behavior is
criminal. Allowing day laborers and employers to help in determining sanctions
will promote acceptance and self-policing.
- prohibitions against drinking, drug use, and gambling;
- prohibitions against swarming;
- prohibitions against violence;
- prohibitions against public urination and littering;
- proper procedures for soliciting employers and laborers;† and
- provisions that ensure employers treat laborers fairly (e.g., pay
laborers at the agreed-to price and provide breaks).
Forming an advisory committee.
Forming an advisory committee to oversee the
day labor center can help ensure that it runs efficiently,
and can also increase the center’s support base. People from many different
groups and organizations should serve on the committee. Advisors might include
employees from government social-service offices, police officers, area
merchants, citizens, employers of day laborers, day laborers themselves, and
members of nongovernmental community-service groups.
- Establishing supplemental programs at day
labor centers. Some communities have implemented service, education, and
training programs at day labor centers. These programs provide needed services for day laborers and give them addedS
incentives to use the centers. Participation in the supplementary programs also
gives laborers constructive ways to spend their time while they are waiting for
work. Educational and training programs include English language instruction,
computer skills classes, and job preparation programs. Service programs include
those for food, clothing, and shelter assistance; immigration services; legal
services; banking services†; tool-sharing; and health care
referrals. Establishing services and programs from outside groups—government or
others—will also give outsiders incentives to manage and maintain the centers.
- Closing streets and alleys, diverting traffic,
or regulating parking. Traffic flows and patterns at day laborer sites
often pose problems. Altering traffic patterns will make it easy for employers
to pick up laborers, and will reduce complaints associated with vehicle and
pedestrian traffic obstructions. Establishing designated laborer-pickup zones
will also reduce congestion and “swarming” problems. Once traffic procedures
are established, it will be necessary to ensure that laborers do not interrupt
the process by approaching employer vehicles outside of designated pickup
areas. Care should also be taken to ensure that any traffic changes do not
cause undue harm to area merchants.
- Enforcing laws prohibiting disorder (e.g.,
trespassing, loitering, public intoxication, littering, and vandalism). Focused
enforcement of disorder-related offenses will address some of the commonly
found problems associated with day laborer sites. Enforcing these laws requires
greater manpower and time spent monitoring the sites. Enforcement alone will
not completely stop day laboring or the problems associated with it, but it
does send a message to laborers that illegal behavior is unacceptable.
Sanctions for lower-level offenses may also serve to remove those problematic
laborers who might also commit more-serious crimes.
- Enforcing laws prohibiting assault and
robbery. Enforcing laws against assault and robbery will further define the
boundaries of unacceptable behavior for day laborers. Such offenses will tend
to be reactive and will require witnesses for successful prosecution, unless an
officer witnesses their occurrence. It will be difficult to develop a
prosecutable case since other laborers will be reluctant to give police
information out of fear regarding their immigration status. Language
deficiencies will also create problems.† To increase success in enforcing these
(and other) laws, assigning specific multilingual officers to day labor sites
will improve communication between police and laborers, which will prove
valuable in gathering information.
- Establishing a highly visible police presence. A highly visible police presence, typically with extra uniformed officers,
is intended to discourage illegal conduct by day laborers. It may appease area
merchants or community members, but could also lead people to believe that the
area is unsafe. It is also costly and will likely have only a temporary effect
if not followed up with more permanent strategies, such as establishing a
police substation in the area. This could be augmented with private security forces.
- Creating and enforcing ordinances prohibiting
the solicitation of work in non-designated places. Some communities have
created city ordinances that prohibit the solicitation of work in certain
areas. These ordinances are intended to relocate day laboring to designated places.
Unless the ordinances are enforced, day laboring will continue to occur in
places that are convenient for laborers and employers, if not for others, even
if an authorized day labor center is established. Ordinance enforcement must be
comprehensive and continual.
- Enhancing fines/penalties for soliciting work or hiring workers in non-specified zones. It may be necessary to enhance
the penalties incurred for violating work solicitation in non-designated places. Small fines will likely be viewed as an added cost of doing business.
Greater fines will compel day laborers and employers to use designated zones.
- Initiating public-awareness campaigns. In conjunction with creating non-solicitation ordinances, some communities have
used publicity campaigns to inform day laborers and employers of the new procedures, and to warn them about the sanctions if they violate the
ordinances. Alerting the participants serves to remove possible excuses for violating the
Police and others can distribute fliers and post signs at
current day-laborer sites. Community service groups as well as area merchants
and residents can also disseminate information. The postings and handouts
should be composed in the intended audience’s native language. Proper
notification of the new ordinances will reduce negative sentiment resulting
from subsequent enforcement.
Responses With Limited Effectiveness
- Conducting sweeps and enforcing immigration
laws. Sweeps are large-scale arrest campaigns targeting suspected illegal
immigrants at day labor sites, without the intent to prosecute. Sweeps have
long been a police strategy to control visible crime problems (such as street
prostitution and street drug markets) when they have been pressured to do
something, but have few resources for dealing with the problem. There is little
evidence that illegal-immigration sweeps are anything other than temporarily
effective at solving the problem.
Police agencies should be aware that enforcing immigration
laws could lead to distrust of the police by illegal immigrants in the
community. This could deter such immigrants from calling for police help when
they are legitimately victimized or otherwise in need.
- Prohibiting day laboring outright. There is
no evidence that prohibiting day laboring outright is effective in the long
term. Day laboring serves a need in the informal labor market and has existed
since early times. De facto prohibition of day laboring by creating ordinances
against soliciting work on public street corners citywide may relocate day
laboring to other places, but it will not eliminate it or associated problems.