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Strategy: Safe Design of Public Areas to Prevent Drug Trafficking

Strategy Neighborhoods can reduce drug-related activity through environmental changes that make their communities less vulnerable and hospitable to drug . . .

Strategy

Neighborhoods can reduce drug-related activity through environmental changes that make their communities less vulnerable and hospitable to drug dealers.

Drug Problem Addressed

Some communities are perfect hideaways for drug dealers and users. For example, the street lighting is poor or the traffic patterns permit quick getaways.

Key Components

Drug-related activity can be reduced if a neighborhood or community is physically designed to protect residents. Relevant physical improvements include better outdoor lighting, building of fences, and removal of abandoned vehicles.

Key Partnerships

Community residents can team up with municipal planners, architects, city agencies, law enforcement, traffic engineers, and utility companies to create a safer neighborhood environment.

Potential Obstacles

Often, municipal governments are willing to work with communities to improve a neighborhood's physical layout or design in order to reduce the presence of drug dealers and other criminals. The process frequently takes time because of the requirements of surveying, analysis, bidding for contracts, and delegating funds. In addition to technical issues, there are issues of eliminating residents' fears, establishing trust between law enforcement and residents, and working to design a model that increases the neighborhood's safety and appearance.

Signs of Success

In 1992 residents in the Five Oaks community of Dayton, Ohio, joined forces with local police and city planners to institute a "Neighborhood Stabilization" program. Thirty-five iron gates and twenty-six alley barricades were installed around the community in order to create defensible space. The gates and barricades effectively closed off open space previously occupied and used as a main thoroughfare by drug dealers and prostitutes. According to a report from Dayton's Office of Management and Budget, the initiative resulted in a 24 percent decrease in nonviolent crime and 50 percent decrease in violent crime.

Applying the Strategy

One year, 10 percent of Connecticut's homicides occurred in Bridgeport's east-side peninsula, an area locally known as "Beirut." In this area, local police authorities and city-planning officials have since implemented a street modification program called the Phoenix Project. In areas with heavy drug traffic, street barriers and traffic-control devices were installed to create one-way streets, make turn-offs onto side streets difficult, and make traffic flow easier to manage and monitor. The project included community mobilization and a sting operation that targeted dangerous gang leaders and drug dealers. The overall initiative resulted in an approximate 75 percent decline in crime and the area's lowest crime rate since 1972.

From 350 Tested Strategies to Prevent Crime: A Resource for Municipal Agencies and Community Groups

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