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Tools for Change: The Chronic Nuisance Ordinance

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2017
2 pages
Intended primarily for grantees addressing community crime problems under the model promoted by the federal Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program (BCJI), this instructional paper focuses on the features and effects of ordinances that have been used in various cities to address properties that regularly require attention from the police and code-enforcement personnel (chronic nuisance ordinance).
Chronic nuisance ordinances have been adopted by many communities as a way to encourage property owners to be more responsible in managing their properties to comply with community norms of maintenance and safety. The types of calls cited in a nuisance ordinance may include, but are not limited to, disorderly conduct, gambling, theft, prostitution, trespassing, arson, weapons, noise, animal abuse, alcohol abuse, controlled substances, or building code violations. Domestic violence should not be included in the nuisance category, since it constitutes a crime in itself. Once a violator of a nuisance ordinance has been identified, the government unit responsible for enforcing the nuisance ordinance should work with the property owner or manager to develop a plan for reducing future nuisance activity at the property. When developing a chronic nuisance ordinance for a community, it is important to be in regular communication with interested stakeholders, including groups that represent local businesses, landlords, tenants, and crime victims. Those likely to be impacted should be given access to information or contacts that will enable them to monitor their own properties proactively.