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Cleaning Up Drug Hot Spots in Oakland, California: The Displacement and Diffusion Effects

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 12 Issue: 4 Dated: (December 1995) Pages: 737-754
L Green
Date Published
18 pages

This paper examines the displacement and diffusion of a civil remedy program in Oakland, California; referred to as SMART (Specialized Multi-Agency Response Team), the program uses municipal codes and drug nuisance abatement laws to control drug and disorder problems.


In 1988, the Oakland Police Department began a place-oriented drug control program that relied on police coordination of multiagency task forces to decrease the level of drug-related problems and to improve living conditions in targeted sites. Coined SMART, the program worked with a team of city agency representatives to inspect drug nuisance properties, coerced landowners to clean up blighted properties, posted no trespassing signs, enforced civil law codes and municipal regulations, and initiated court proceedings against property owners who failed to comply with civil law citations. While the SMART program emphasized alternative intervention tactics, traditional drug law enforcement methods were also used at targeted businesses, homes, and rental properties. Traditional methods included arresting drug dealers and increasing police patrol presence at drug problem sites. An evaluation of the SMART program demonstrated that enforcing municipal code violations and cleaning up drug nuisance sites significantly reduced drug activity. The SMART program not only decreased drug problems but also led to a net diffusion of benefits in areas surrounding target sites. Drug offender movement patterns resulting from the SMART program at a sample of 321 targeted sites are examined. A theoretical and methodological framework for measuring spatial crime displacement and diffusion effects is presented. 38 references, 9 footnotes, and 4 tables