East District Blotter

Captain Schauf's Updates: Solving Problems- The Community and Police Working Together

May 1, 2012 8:33 AM

Problem-Solving: Budget Motels
Following the values of trust based policing the East District has been working with the community to solve some local issues.

Over the last several years some of the budget motels in the East District have seen a spike in the number of calls for service to police. Using problem solving techniques specific to budget motels the East Police have been able to work jointly with the  businesses in creating a plan to improve the motel's safety and lower problem incidents.

Budget motels tend to attract a specific cliental because of their discounted rates. While this includes the budget minded traveler, it can also be individuals closer to home that are engaging in criminal or nuisance behaviors. The first step is for the owner/manager and police to understand the problems a specific business is experiencing, and the contributing factors. This process includes an analysis of police reports, a site visit to look at the environmental design, and discussion with staff of the establishment. Often this analysis will directly point to potential strategies to improve the situation.

This type of problem is not unique to Madison and is well documented in the Problem-Specific Guide Series published by the Department of Justice COPS Office (Schmerler, K., Disorder at Budget Motels, 2005; www.cops.usdoj.gov/Publications/e10042574.pdf). From these guides we can find solutions that have proved successful for other similar situations. Some common management strategies that have proven successful in reducing problems at budget motels include increasing the charged rates even by a small amount, requiring customers to pay by credit card (with refundable deposit), and submit a driver's license or valid identification for registration. This has proven to drastically cut down on damage to the property and reduces the
likelihood of criminal activity. It is important to note that it is generally a combination of techniques along with additional security services (hiring private security firms) that further reduce the opportunity for criminal activities to occur.

Another common problem solving tool used for all problems is an evaluation of the site environmental design. The basic layout of a motel allows not only guests, but others to access portions of a property including direct access to rooms, without passing by the front desk. By implementing environmental changes such as putting up fences, planting low growing foliage, and limiting traffic in and out of a property to guests only, during specific hours, the business allows for better visibility, which in turn discourages inappropriate activities. These strategies allow motel staff to better monitor activity in parking areas, and the back side of the motel.

Budget motels may also offer the option to rent a room for a month at a time at a discounted rate. Even increasing the rate in this circumstance, combined with limiting the term of stay to less than 28 days helps prevent motel guests from becoming tenants making them more difficult to evict. Motels that allow for longer stays become a permanent living arrangement, and problem tenants need to go through an eviction process.

Local motels using these models with assistance from the East Madison Police have been able to cut down on crime, costs associated with damage, and reduce the number of calls to police, preventing the motel from becoming a nuisance property subject to the nuisance abatement process.
 

Problem-Solving in Parks
Another area in which the East Madison Police and community are working together to create a safer environment for all is at Olbrich Park. Starting with our early warm weather there were increases in calls for police services for disturbances related to chronic inebriates who were using the park. These individuals were coming to the park because alcohol consumption was permissible, and then harassing other park users. East police staff worked with the Parks Division staff to analyze the problems, including participation in a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) survey. The Parks Division then took the lead in making changes to address problem  behaviors in the park. The efforts of the Park's team have brought about changes to improve safety and security in Olbrich Park, and they continue to be a valued partner in addressing problems in our community.

The East District has many neighborhood parks and with the warm weather increased use by many patrons. If your neighborhood park is experiencing problems please contact us with your concerns. Park patrons are also encouraged to use "Park Watch" and call 911 to report suspicious activity.

Problem-Solving in General

The East District has been involved in other small neighborhood based problem solving initiatives such as addressing neighborhoods with above average calls for police services. By addressing these underlying issues we can maximize the efficiency of our limited resources. Successful efforts involve the stakeholders (neighbors, managers, etc.) coming together with police to develop plans and strategies to address these issues that are seldom resolved with a single tool. Police can provide increases in traditional services, creative solutions, or specific prompting to engage less interested stakeholders to do their part in resolving a complaint. Collaborative work tends to be the most successful.

Working together the MPD and the community are making Madison's East side a safer, more beautiful, and overall better place to live.

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