Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Summary of Responses

The table below summarizes the responses to student party riots, 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
Initial Planning
1 Creating a multiagency task force Brings together a variety of community resources, and clarifies the roles and responsibilities of the groups involved …there is community or city pressure to prevent disturbances, so that more organizations and agencies will be willing to assist police Some agencies may be reluctant to get involved, especially if there has been negative press concerning previous efforts to control disturbances
2 Requiring students to get a permit to host a gathering Notifies authorities of a gathering in advance, sets restrictions and standards for the event, and holds hosts responsible for meeting basic requirements …a city ordinance already requires such applications, and this requirement can easily be communicated to students and the surrounding community The city council may have to pass new legislation
3 Assigning police officers as advisors to hosts of gatherings Officers help students to meet legal requirements for hosting a gathering …there is an available campus or community officer with whom the students are familiar Students hosting the gathering may not be willing to work with police
4 Increasing the consequences of rioting, and educating students about the penalties Deters students from engaging in destructive behaviors at gatherings …laws and sanctions prohibiting rioting are in place, and students perceive these penalties as a credible threat for misbehaving Penalties must already exist and be severe enough to offset the perceived benefits of engaging in a disturbance
5 Partnering with the media to influence student and community perceptions Increases positive perceptions of the event and perceptions of risk for those interested in causing a disturbance …the police can or have established positive relationships with the media Interventions must be developed and implementation must begin before the media can focus on these strategies
6 Working with landlords to ensure renter compliance Creates an additional element of risk for students who host disruptive gatherings on rented property; encourages landlord participation in preventing disruptive gatherings …police have the full cooperation of landlords Without the backing of legal requirements, it may be difficult to obtain the assistance of absentee or uncooperative landlords
7 Controlling alcohol distribution Reduces student alcohol consumption, underage drinking and purchasing of alcohol, and drunken driving …a multifaceted approach is used that targets vendors, students, local laws, and liquor outlets Some strategies are easier to implement than others; limiting the number of alcohol outlets may take many years, require local government cooperation, and create significant opposition
8 Providing alternative entertainment Reduces the number of people at a single gathering; provides other recreation opportunities in a more controlled setting …the alternatives are attractive to college-aged individuals University-sponsored events often do not serve alcohol due to liabilities; this may decrease general interest in the event if alcohol is being offered elsewhere
Preassembly Preparation
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
9 Asking students to participate in "student patrols" Allows peers to "police" themselves; reduces the need for official interventions …those in charge of security are seen as authority figures, and other attendees respect this authority This must involve a tightly coordinated effort between the student patrols and police in case of a violent outbreak or emergency; students who patrol should not be asked to engage in dangerous situations
10 "Sanitizing" the gathering location Removes objects that can become a safety hazard …multiple agencies help police to identify and remove hazardous materials To prevent new debris from collecting at the location, final cleanup should not be organized too far in advance of the event
11 Monitoring advertisements for gatherings Notifies authorities of large gatherings in advance …there is clear and immediate communication between university officials and police once fliers are posted Students may continue to post fliers without proper approval; officials must have a monitoring system in place to track and remove this material
12 Limiting parking Increases the effort needed to attend; removes targets that may be vandalized; clears exits in case of an emergency …police enforce no- parking at the event location and in the immediate adjacent areas Opposition may arise if residents do not have access to off-street parking; police should also anticipate where students will park instead, to prepare for possible traffic problems or citizen complaints
13 Closing or controlling traffic flow Reduces pedestrian injuries; prevents students from bringing in large, dangerous objects …the measures do not significantly disrupt busy traffic routes during peak traffic hours Closing major thoroughfares will require planning and coordination with the media to alert the public of alternative traffic routes
Assembly Process
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
14 Providing transportation to the event Facilitates orderly arrival; reduces the number of cars at the event; prevents attendees from bringing large quantities of alcohol to the event …the transportation leaves from an easily accessible, centralized location Police need to consider the number of buses or vans needed to transport the expected number of attendees, and the liability associated with providing this service
15 Establishing a positive police presence Reduces anonymity and facilitates communication …police presence is established early on, preferably as people begin to assemble Hosts and attendees may view any police presence as negative
16 Establishing and controlling gathering perimeters Prevents the gathering from spreading too far into the surrounding areas …natural barriers are used The size of the most appropriate perimeter may be difficult to determine before full assembly; police should make necessary adjustments as people arrive and begin to disperse
Assembled Gathering
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
17 Using alternative deployment methods Gives officers a tactical advantage over car patrols …police use more than one deployment method Police cars are still likely to be needed, but should not be the principle method of deployment within the gathering
18 Using visual deterrents to inhibit misconduct Deters attendees by reminding them of the consequences of rioting …all members of the gathering can see the "deterrent" Police must maintain an appropriate level of deterrence, without appearing overly hostile
19 Videotaping the assembled gathering Reduces anonymity; assists in subsequent investigations …attendees are aware they are being filmed Civil liberty issues may be called into question if the gathering is held on private property
20 Strategically locating the media around the gathering Breaks the cohesion of large groups …the media are spread evenly throughout the area The media may want access to film from various locations and fail to cooperate with police requests
21 Recognizing and immediately removing factors that could lead to a flashpoint Removes the impetus that causes a violent outbreak …there are enough police to adequately observe the entire gathering’s activities Police may contribute to a flash point if they unnecessarily harass people who are not engaged in destructive behavior
22 Developing a standard operating procedure in case of a disturbance Contains and stops violence after it begins …police use force only when necessary and target only those individuals engaged in disruptive behavior Reactive strategies, if perceived as unjust, can serve to instigate rather than inhibit violent activity
Dispersal Process
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
23 Providing transportation from the event Controls dispersal; reduces drunken driving …people are returned as soon as possible, without having to wait too long in a crowded place for transportation If too many people are dropped off at the same place at the same time, a disturbance may occur at this secondary location
24 Facilitating orderly dispersal Breaks up the gathering before a disturbance begins …police wait until people break into smaller groups Shutting down the event too early may lead some people to resist police authority and possibly rebel by vandalizing property or attacking officers
Responses With Limited Effectiveness
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
25 Developing reactive responses only Suppresses a disturbance once it begins   These do little to prevent disturbances, and may even instigate them
26 Banning all student parties Prohibits alcohol- related gatherings at venues where a ban can be enforced …there are no easy alternative locations where the ban cannot be enforced There are civil liberty issues associated with this tactic, and students may refuse to comply, particularly those living off-campus
27 Relying on parental control Deters students through parental informal social control …students still live with their parents or rely on them for financial support Sharing information with parents of individuals over 18 may violate privacy laws