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National Survey of Municipal Police Departments on Urban Quality of Life Initiatives

NCJ Number
Date Published
104 pages
In surveying the largest municipal police departments in the United States in 1996, researchers attempted to determine how and to what extent these law enforcement agencies used local ordinances to deal with various street conditions and order maintenance problems.
A questionnaire was sent to 512 police departments in municipalities with a population of 50,000 or more. The response rate of 75.8 percent was high, with 388 of 512 police departments completing the questionnaire. The questionnaire sought information on panhandling, public incivilities and disorderly conduct, unauthorized camping in public places, and juvenile curfews. The analysis focused on the law enforcement response, law enforcement tactics, and the use of ordinances to prevent public disorder problems. Data suggested several interrelated factors affected the enforcement of local ordinances. Police officers had considerable discretion in dealing with order maintenance situations, and many local ordinances were frequently invoked but on an informal basis. Most States had statutes prohibiting disorderly conduct and public intoxication. Some of the people who caused street disturbances needed psychiatric or medical attention. In some cases, police departments lacked the necessary resources to enforce local ordinances aggressively, consistently, and fairly. Appendixes contain the survey questionnaire and cover letter, a list of the 388 agencies responding to the survey, written comments, and the survey codebook. 3 references and 13 endnotes

Date Published: January 1, 1997