Specialized Multi Agency Response Teams (SMARTs) are part of a team-based approach to reduce drug-related problems and improve habitation conditions at targeted problem sites.
As part of the Oakland Beat Health program, target sites are identified by police according to the number of emergency calls from an area, the number of narcotic arrests there, or special requests for police assistance from community-based groups. Sites can be residential or commercial, and they often experience multiple problems—from blight to squatters to prostitution.
Once a site has been identified, the police visit the area and meet with various stakeholders (such as community representatives, landlords, and business owners) to establish working relationships. Police attempt to communicate to the stakeholders that they (the police) are invested in cleaning up the area. The police suggest simple crime prevention measures and explain landlords’ rights and tenants’ responsibilities. Activities can vary by site and include alternative, problem-solving tactics (e.g., inspecting drug-nuisance properties, posting “no trespassing” signs) and traditional law enforcement tactics (e.g., the arrest of drug dealers, increased police patrols at targeted sites).
If these early measures do not lead to improvements, police deploy SMARTs to identify violations of various civil laws and regulatory rules. The team can include representatives from a variety of agencies, including housing, public works, fire, vector control, and the public utilities. These representatives inspect local properties, and when violations are identified to local fire, housing, or public works, vector control, or public utilities, the city inspectors issue citations. The most common citation is for violating the housing code. When violations are not rectified, civil laws can be used to bring suit against owners of drug-nuisance properties. In California, this stage leads to about 2 percent of SMART cases being referred for formal court action against the property owner.
The SMART program includes the Landlord Training Program, which encourages landlords to screen potential renters. The landlords also learn about the processes for evicting unsatisfactory tenants who are causing problems.