Center Street

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Problem Oriented Policing project

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  • Center Street

    1. 1. Beat 2Y, District 1 August 2, 2007 PSO Officers Brad Young A.C. Smith
    2. 2. <ul><li>Brad Young 8540 (Primary Officer/Project Manager) </li></ul><ul><li>10 Years with the Oakland Police Department </li></ul><ul><li>Served as a police cadet, Patrol, Crime Prevention Unit, Rangers, Crime Reduction Team, and recently a Problem Solving Officer primarily assigned to west Oakland throughout sworn tenure. </li></ul><ul><li>Prior service as a field training officer, background investigator, and academy baton instructor. </li></ul><ul><li>Albert C. Smith 7755 </li></ul><ul><li>18 years with the Oakland Police Department. </li></ul><ul><li>Served in patrol, Airport Detail, and Problem Solving Officer. </li></ul><ul><li>Previously assigned to beat 16, district 3 as a Problem Solving Officer. </li></ul>
    3. 4. <ul><li>Through years of drugs dealing and multitudes of violence protracted on to the streets of 1000 Center Street, it had become ingrained with drugs dealers, their associates, and drugs users. Plagued with drugs users, the area was often burglarized by drugs users to support their habit. There were also street level assaults, including shootings, that occurred with impunity as the dealers and other criminals had a feeling of immunity and protection. This was because of the ingrained drugs network that had been allowed to build and foster in the area. </li></ul><ul><li>These networks were so extensive and so vast that they often monitored police activity via scanner and lookouts, and hid fleeing criminals in their private homes in order to avoid police detections. They were also fixed surveillance points paid by the drugs dealers to act as lookouts from inside their residence to alert them to approaching uniformed police. They were also paid to run interference when the officers conducting any enforcement activity by gathering a hostile crowd and yelling at the officers in order to cause a distraction. </li></ul>
    4. 5. <ul><li>These groups are so well organized that they often had well orchestrated plots against officers in which they used the Oakland Police Departments Internal Affairs Division as a tool against a particular officer in which they paid lookouts to act as witnesses on their account when they lodged a complaint. It was not until later that the investigator would learn that the witness provided false testimony and the witness would be unreachable. This gave the officers who work the area a false sense of being “attacked” by our own system. This, in turn, de-motivated some officers and placed them into a reactive mode and discouraged proactive work. </li></ul>
    5. 6. <ul><li>Though the demographics of the group displayed a sense of poverty and lack of monetary establishment, it was a facade . These groups on Center Street were highly organized drugs dealers that used fear, intimidation, and violence to conduct and control business in the area . They are highly intelligent despite lack of education, having a generational instruction on the trade of drugs dealing and how to avoid police detection. They had successfully operated in the area for over a decade, and had made sizable profits by recruiting many of our cities youth that may have otherwise avoided a police record and become working tax-paying citizens had the gangs not existed. </li></ul>
    6. 7. <ul><li>Residents lived in very real fear and some felt as if prisoners in their own homes because of the way drugs dealers used the area as their own personal “kingdom”; often harassing female citizens as they walk by sexual cat calling them as well as other derogatory terms. On one occasion, while conducting surveillance on foot, I heard one dealer tell a female who refused to walk over to him when called, the deal called her an “ugly ho” and threaten to rape the female and yelled out the apartment complex address and number where she lived (After returning to visible patrol, I arrested the subject for a violation of the Oakland Municipal Code). The fear and intimidation faced by these citizens as a result of these criminals was very real , and some of these criminals would follow through with their threats. </li></ul>
    7. 8. HEIRARCHY
    8. 9. <ul><li>Because of the intimidation, community participation was nearly impossible in fear of retaliation. </li></ul><ul><li>Problem Solving Officers needed a new approach to conduct a long term solution to what appeared to be an impossible feat. </li></ul><ul><li>Problem Solving Officers had limited resources, including equipment, personnel, and most importantly; time . </li></ul>
    9. 10. <ul><li>Some of the problems included the following: </li></ul><ul><li>There were visible street level drugs dealings conducted by known drugs dealers who had been violent with citizens in the past. They used intimidation to prevent calls for service from police or prevent witness cooperation. They even called to complain about Lt. Berlin. </li></ul><ul><li>There were multiple structures containing lookouts and storehouses for the use of drugs sales in the area, making detection and recovery using traditional policing almost a gamble (which house has the drugs?). During the project, the service of a search warrant resulted in the recovery of a firearm, but no drugs due to it being moved two days prior. </li></ul>
    10. 11. <ul><li>Key elements and participants: </li></ul><ul><li>Dealers had fixed and street level surveillance on police: (alerting when police arrived via cell phone or “BOOST” phone acting as a two way radio). </li></ul><ul><li>Runners: who transported drugs from place to place (usually juvenile females, intentionally done to dissuade officers from stopping them because of the extra work involved in stopping juveniles). </li></ul><ul><li>Directors: who directed the drug buyers, multiple “stand out” locations (locations where drugs dealers are standing to appear to be selling drugs. Usually only one of the groups had drugs making it difficult for law enforcement to detect). </li></ul><ul><li>Dealers : who sell the drugs and are often armed and disrespectful to the surrounding community. It would be a completely different scenario if the dealers were quiet and did not intimidate the community. However, these dealers often vocally yelled out anti-police slogans after having hid from a passing police vehicle to re-emphasize their control over the area. This, of course, was invisible to most officers working the area. </li></ul>
    11. 12. <ul><li>The dealers were often protected by the very citizens that complained . The citizens were so scared that some of the citizens actually begin to assist drugs dealers out of desperation and fear believing the police and themselves to be powerless. They would often call or warn the drugs dealers that the police were coming even though they were the ones who called the police originally, just to avoid a conflict with the dealer later on. (i.e. avoid a “snitch” reputation) </li></ul><ul><li>The area was highly accessible by foot and vehicle traffic making police presence obvious. </li></ul><ul><li>Traditional Policing had failed in the area . The criminals were a step ahead of our tactics and had an intimate knowledge of our inner workings including using Internal Affairs as a tool against officers. </li></ul><ul><li>Dealers were constantly recruiting new dealers making detection more difficult. They specifically recruited juveniles due to their unlikely appearance as a dealer and the difficulty in prosecution. </li></ul>
    12. 13. <ul><li>The first phase of CENTER STREET SHUTDOWN was case preparation and intelligence gathering. Off. Smith and I working as a two man team identified the following major contributors to the problem: </li></ul><ul><li>The Steel family was widely known for drugs sales and domination of the Center Street corridor, and were operating out of 916 Center Street. The drugs were clearly being kept at this location and it was rumored to have multiple weapons. The house was an unsecured abandoned house owned by the Steel’s grandfather William Steel Sr. </li></ul><ul><li>There were multiple abandoned vehicles which were being used by drug users as a vessel to smoke drugs directly after purchase. This was observed on surveillance. </li></ul><ul><li>Fixed surveillance; there were tenants paid by the Steel’s to be interior lookouts posting at their windows to alert when the police approached. </li></ul>
    13. 14. <ul><li>The drugs dealers had a highly organized communication network that they used to conduct drugs operations outside of police control (cell phones etc). </li></ul><ul><li>There were limited to no police resources available to help with CENTER STREET SHUTDOWN at the time (i.e., units were usually assigned to a higher priority). </li></ul>
    14. 15. <ul><li>This project began in September 2006 at which time I was partnered with Off. K. Wright (recently promoted) at which time we began the following: </li></ul><ul><li>Target Enforcement Focus Team served a search warrant on the Steel’s corner house and made multiple arrests for drugs/weapons. </li></ul><ul><li>Crime Reduction Team made multiple arrests and drugs/weapons recoveries via surveillance and street enforcement when available (particularly Officers Brody Rivera and Malcom Miller). </li></ul><ul><li>Problem Solving Officers made controlled buys utilizing informants and then served a search warrant at 963 Center Street recovering a handgun. </li></ul><ul><li>Patrol Officers increased patrols in the area at the Problem Solving Officers request. </li></ul><ul><li>ALL TACTICS FAILED TO IMPROVE THE OVERALL PHYSICAL APPEARANCE OF THE AREA WHICH WAS NECESSARY TO CORRECT THE “BROKEN WINDOWS” PROBLEM. </li></ul>
    15. 16. <ul><li>Because of the dynamics of what we were undertaking there was one goal, and one goal only: </li></ul><ul><li>Improve the physical appearance of the 900-1000 block of Center Street by reducing elements related to drugs activity such as abandoned auto’s, blighted houses, poor lighting, etc. ( Broken Windows Theory ) within one year and lasting for at least one year. The goal would be considered achieved if trash, abandoned auto’s, abandoned/blighted houses etc were eliminated, and residents felt safe enough to start using the streets again. If possible, we would hand over the maintenance of the project to the residents, who would use the street in a positive manner and report criminal activity. </li></ul>
    16. 17. <ul><li>In Spring of 2007, I partnered with Off. A.C. Smith and we began to change direction. We determined that traditional policing methods failed and began to implement the following strategies: </li></ul><ul><li>Observing the activities of the dealers and users during a specific time frame (watching the dealers and users start to group together), Off. Smith and I conducted a search of 916 Center Street to search for drugs and weapons. The house was always open to the public and unsecured (no doors) . To be safe, I obtained permission from William Steel Sr. to enter the property and search it . Off. Smith and I recovered over $1,000.00 in pre-packaged marijuana literally shutting down the street level activities by eliminating their inventory that would have been sold on Center Street . (Contrary to prior belief, the main staple drug sold on Center Street was marijuana and not crack cocaine which was determined via informants) </li></ul><ul><li>Off. Smith and I then began towing the vehicles the users were using to smoke the drugs and contributed to blight, towing more than a dozen vehicles from the area and dramatically improving the appearance of the neighborhood . The foot traffic of drug users trickled down to almost nothing. </li></ul>
    17. 18. <ul><li>Off. Smith and I realized that the perception of a lack of police allowed the criminals to operate with an almost invincible feeling . Immediately after the first two steps, Off. Smith and I dedicated all time when assigned to our beats to being in the 1000 block of Center Street. By doing so, we would contact, cite, or arrest any and all violations observed by the drugs dealers or users. The presence of the drugs dealers all but disappeared. </li></ul><ul><li>Off. Smith and I contacted the owners of the blighted properties and the landlords of the fixed surveillance (indoor lookouts) points who were quick to shut down the surveillance being conducted by their tenants against police. The landlords had no idea that the lookout activity was occurring, and they were very responsive (11570H&S). </li></ul><ul><li>Off. Smith and I walked the area ; I rode the dual purpose motorcycle , and often parked our vehicles in different locations giving the appearance of multiple officers when in reality it was just us. </li></ul>
    18. 19. <ul><li>Off. Smith and I realized that the drug dealers were prepared for a drug enforcement style policing (e.g. buy/bust, surveillance, etc). Basing that in mind, we began enforcing any non-drug related offenses. </li></ul><ul><li>Citations for littering, loitering, spitting, parking in a red zone, double parking, having no license plates etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Off. Smith and I would casually strike up conversations with passers by specifically to extend our time (uniformed presence) in the area and get to know the residents. </li></ul><ul><li>Off. Smith and I utilized the police vehicle Public Announcement system to promote the Drug Hotline in front of the drug dealers. </li></ul><ul><li>Off. Smith and I would casually walk up to the drug dealers and start talking to them for no criminal act at all, just to converse with them politely and then leave. This often times created confusion. </li></ul>
    19. 20. <ul><li>GOAL: Improve the physical appearance of the 900-1000 block of Center Street by reducing elements related to drug activity such as abandoned auto’s, blighted houses, poor lighting, etc. ( Broken Windows Theory ) within one year. The goal would be considered achieved if trash, abandoned auto’s, abandoned/blighted houses etc were eliminated, and residents felt safe enough to start using the streets again. If possible, we would hand over the maintenance of the project to the residents, who would use the street in a positive manner and report criminal activity </li></ul><ul><li>In the ten years I have been policing in Oakland, Center street was known to be a “drug spot” impossible for police to infiltrate and a reputation of confrontation between police and citizens whom they were trying to protect. </li></ul><ul><li>We met our goal, as evidenced by the following: </li></ul><ul><li>Immediately after the disappearance of the drug dealers, in March 2007, about seven months after starting the project, I received multiple emails and phone calls from citizens whom I have never met thanking me for our efforts and stating there was an immediate and long lasting improvement . </li></ul><ul><li>One woman even told me that she never let her children or grandchildren play in the front yard because of the violence and invited me by to see her grandchildren playing for the first time (in the front instead of the rear yard!) . This was a very positive and satisfying feeling to see citizens freed from being prisoners in their own homes. </li></ul><ul><li>Off. Smith and I monitored the calls for service in the Center Street area and there has been no return of known drug activity in the area to date. (Also see photos) </li></ul>
    20. 21. ASSESSMENT CONT’D: <ul><li>Q: How did we know the results were due to our project and not to other factors? </li></ul><ul><li>A: This was evident by citizens seeking and contacting us directly for our involvement. Additionally, no other agencies were engaged in a project or operations in the Center Street area during this project. I was in constant contact with the NSC Sandra Saunders-West for any additional projects in the area, and there were none. Additionally, we were also in constant contact with Lt. Berlin and other internal police units and none were conducting any projects in the Center Street area. </li></ul>
    21. 22. <ul><li>As happens frequently in the department, Problem Solving Officers were often pulled off of their projects to citywide operations, patrol, etc . This greatly hampered this project. This took away from the constant presence we were trying to establish and made the project take longer. It is important to recognize that the Problem Solving Officer is a unique position and needs to be fully dedicated to its purpose or it is ineffective and promotes an aura of inadequacy and laziness (i.e., the patrol and citizens say the PSO is never there, no progress on projects etc.). As a suggestion for the future, I recommend the PSO be kept on a project as much as possible to ensure consistency and progress. </li></ul><ul><li>There was a lack of data . I did not know it would be necessary to keep independent records. I assumed all enforcement action would be readily available via departmental data (LRMS, CAD, Hummingbird) which was incorrect. The data I found was sometimes incorrect, and most of the work we generated was not readily found. In the future, I plan to keep independent records of all activity on the project. </li></ul>
    22. 23. <ul><li>Problem Solving Officers lacked equipment necessary to document progress and milestones . My sergeant was unable to provide the camera which I needed to document my progress (before and after). Finally, just recently, Lt. Berlin was able to get me a camera. As a suggestion, for projects to move along smoothly, if a PSO or their supervisors request equipment necessary to the project, it should be provided immediately or clearly stated that the equipment is not available. This way the PSO can take alternative steps. (Side Note--the NSC Sandra Saunders-West went before her NCPC board requesting funds for a camera displaying a great working relationship between the PSO’s and the NSC’s). </li></ul><ul><li>I was unable to set a schedule for the project : I did not plan or organize most of the responses due to an unreliable schedule. I could not plan operations, schedule outside assistance (City Administrators office etc.), or request internal assistance (Traffic, TEFT, CRT) because I did not know if I would be placed on a special operation that day. This is related to the first problem of removal of PSO’s from the beat when on a project. </li></ul>
    23. 24. <ul><li>Missed opportunity to include outside agencies . I realized after the project’s closure that there were multiple agencies I could have used in this project. Alameda County Sheriffs Department AC Transit police (there is a bus stop two blocks north), B.A.R.T. Police (Four blocks south), Park Rangers (the median of Mandela Parkway is a park), Oakland Housing Authority (one block east), Southern Pacific Police (six blocks south), and California Highway Patrol anti-terror unit (undercover assigned to the port). I could have asked that all these units do a pass by 10 th and Center on their way to whatever they were doing to increase police visibility. I will incorporate them in the future. </li></ul><ul><li>Missed opportunity to include outside civilian agencies and Measure Y resources . I did not include the help of the multiple security guards in the area (cell phone for intelligence NOT enforcement), apartment management, and store owners. I also did not deploy any Measure Y resources. I will incorporate them in the future. </li></ul>
    24. 25. <ul><li>No documented plan or contingency plan . I did not document my plan step by step, and I did not have a back up plan in the event that these tactics failed. I have been very lucky in “winging it” due to my personality traits, however, I recommend a project plan have a contingency. </li></ul>
    25. 26. <ul><li>Problem Solving Officers set an achievable goal. One problem we have had at the Oakland Police Department is asking people to accomplish the impossible (e.g., asking a CRT squad to reduce street violence overall). In this case, we set an appropriate, achievable goal and we met it. </li></ul><ul><li>Problem Solving Officers learned from their opponents. This may sound strange, but officers were able to learn their opponents habits, operations, friends, family, hobbies, and most importantly, their weakness. Problem Solving Officers were able to use their arrogance and pride as a tool against them taking away what made them most comfortable. </li></ul><ul><li>Setting a clearly defined goal and reaching it led to not only successfully completing the project, but also multiple other positive chain reactions, such as the citizens emailing us and thanking us, organizing block parties, etc. Additionally, the City Attorney (Matt Hawkins) persuaded the Steels to sell the property. </li></ul>
    26. 27. <ul><li>Problem Solving Officers paid attention to details. By watching the drug dealers’ every move, we were able to find not just one but ALL of their connections (criminal network). This was the eventual downfall for the criminals in the area. </li></ul><ul><li>Problem Solving Officers changed the rules of engagement . Upon learning the criminals behaviors, we were able to adapt and approach the problem from a different angle (issuing citations, towing cars, etc.) which was unexpected by the criminals who were ready for a traditional response. </li></ul><ul><li>Problem Solving Officers were able to utilize confusion as a tool . When I began walking the area, the criminals were confused and literally did not know what to do, where I was, or what I was going to do. This confusion led to fear , and the fear led to panic , the panic led to them fleeing the area. This was a positive by product of a very simple approach. </li></ul>
    27. 28. <ul><li>Problem Solving Officers utilized a variety of tactics . By utilizing a variety of tactics, we were able to make it an unpleasant environment for users and dealers. </li></ul><ul><li>Problem Solving Officers used time as a tool . From our surveillance, we were able to strike at the precise moment the dealers had the drugs in 916 Center Street and take away the source of the problem. </li></ul><ul><li>Problem Solving Officers took initiative . The role of the PSO is unique in the event that they have a choice to make: Either stay with the norm (handle calls, buy bust, surveillance etc), or try something new or different. In this case, we chose to use older tactics such as walking and providing a uniformed presence. This was very successful. In either case, the PSO must make some decisions and show initiative for their projects to be successful. </li></ul><ul><li>Problem Solving Officers watched for a collapse in the dealers behavior. It was very important to make sure that once the action against the drug dealers started, we did not let up. </li></ul>
    28. 29. <ul><li>Problem Solving Officers never used the same tactics twice if possible: We were able to use keep the suspects guessing by continually changing our tactics. One time we would tow, the other we would cite, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Problem Solving Officers avoided “stalemates&quot; and wouldn’t let the suspects get a second chance to regroup: Once we took action, we were sure to maintain our presence on the street and not let the dealers regroup or attempt to form a “mob” or other intimidating groups. </li></ul><ul><li>Problem Solving Officers continued with perseverance and diligence: Once the area was cleared, we continued to monitor and act on any criminal acts that appeared. </li></ul><ul><li>Citizens surfaced and took over for officers : Once the area was cleared, citizen groups began forming on their own and actually took to the streets, asking the dealers to leave. Then they planned positive activities such as barbecues and play dates with their children in public in order to deter the dealers. </li></ul>
    29. 30. VISUAL IMPROVEMENTS
    30. 31. VISUAL IMPROVEMENTS
    31. 32. CLEAN!!!! Look at the sidewalks!!
    32. 33. More Clean Sidewalks
    33. 34. 10 th Street Improvements
    34. 35. Church and Kids!
    35. 36. PAVED THE WAY FOR FUTURE ENFORCEMENT IF NECESSARY
    36. 37. <ul><li>THE END </li></ul>

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