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Program Profile: San Diego (Calif.) Drug Abatement Response Team (DART)

Evidence Rating: Effective - One study Effective - One study

Date: This profile was posted on June 08, 2011

Program Summary

This program is designed to reduce drug dealing at residential rental properties by encouraging improved property management practices. The program is rated Effective. Properties that received the full intervention (letter from police department, meeting with police and code enforcement, and threatened nuisance abatement) experienced a significant reduction in crime at rental properties with drug problems and more drug offender evictions.

Program Description

Program Goals/Target Sites
The San Diego Drug Abatement Response Team (DART) in California was a program designed to reduce drug dealing at residential rental properties by encouraging improved property management practices. It leveraged the authority of civil law to pressure landlords into addressing problems at rental properties where drug problems had been identified.

San Diego DART targeted private rental properties that had been subjected to some form of drug enforcement. In more than half of the cases, this enforcement activity was a search warrant–based raid. Other actions included knock-and-talk events (police requested permission to search the premises for drugs); buy–bust events (an undercover office made a buy, which led to an arrest); parole searches; and Fourth Amendment waiver actions.

The targeted behaviors included increased evictions of drug offenders and reduced drug-related criminal activity. One hundred and twenty one properties were selected for this program. Most properties were owned by individuals or partnerships (94.9 percent), and most owners indicated that they could spend little or nothing to improve the property.


Program Components
The program targeted landlords and attempted to motivate positive changes through the possibility of nuisance abatement, which is a civil process whereby a property owner is sued to resolve public nuisances (such as drug dealing or prostitution) at a property. A suit carries the possibility of a large fine or even the loss of the property. The legal process is expensive and time-consuming, which explains why this strategy was combined with others.

Some properties received letters from the DART. The letter informed them of the drug activity at the property and explained that the police would help them get rid of the drug dealers, if they wished. The letter also informed them that they could be sued under California law if they failed to remove the nuisance. Once the letter was sent, no further actions were taken by the police unless the property owner requested help.

A second group of properties also received a letter. This letter differed from that received by the first group: it emphasized the legal action the city of San Diego could take if the owners did not resolve the drug dealing problems at their property. The letter instructed owners to contact the police so that an interview could be scheduled; if the owner did not contact the police, the police followed up with them. At the scheduled meeting, the owner and police were joined by a member of the city’s Code of Compliance. They all inspected the property and developed a plan for mitigating drug activities.

Some properties were not contacted at all.


Program Theory
The program is grounded theoretically in routine activity theory. Through place-management improvements, the environment that was attractive to offenders is changed.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1

Crime at Rental Properties With Drug Problems

Eck and Wartell (1998) found that properties that received the full intervention (letter from police department, meeting with police and code enforcement, and threatened nuisance abatement) experienced a significant reduction in crime (60 percent) when compared to the control group. Over the entire 30 month period, the full intervention group had 1.85 crimes fewer than the average control group place, after pretreatment crimes were controlled. Properties that had received only the letter also had a reduction in crime, but this reduction was not statistically significant.

 

In all five of the 6-month periods after the intervention, both treatment groups had fewer crimes than the control group. The biggest declines occurred in the first 6 months after treatment.

 

Evictions of Drug Offenders

There were significantly more evictions for the full intervention group compared to control group. There were also more evictions for letter group compared to the control group, but the difference was not statistically significant.

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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1

Eck and Wartell (1998) used a randomized controlled design to test the impact on crime rates of improved property management for residential rental properties. The researchers selected 121 residential rental properties that had been subjected to some form of drug enforcement between June and November 1993. These properties were divided into one control group with no contact (n=37), one treatment group that received only a letter (n=42), and one treatment group that received a letter from, and meeting with, a member of the San Diego (Calif.) Drug Abatement Response Team (DART) (n=42).

 

Police crime data on reported felonies were collected for 30 months and then aggregated into five 6-month units. In addition, information about the 121 sites was collected, including data on suspects and on the crime or drug events at the sites 3 months prior to the enforcement act and 3 months subsequent to that effort. Logs were maintained, documenting police interactions with owners in the treatment groups. A phone survey of property owners was used to gather information on the properties, and environmental surveys were conducted to assess the physical structure of properties. A narcotics unit detective went to each site to try to buy drugs to collect data on the availability of drugs at each site.

 

Since some sites were prone to higher rates of crime than other sites, the analysis controlled for pretreatment differences in crime levels at the sites.

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Cost

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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Eck, John, and Julie Wartell. 1998. “Improving the Management of Rental Properties With Drug Problems: A Randomized Experiment.” Crime Prevention Studies 9:161–85.
http://www.popcenter.org/library/crimeprevention/volume_09/
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Eck, John E. 1998. “Preventing Crime by Controlling Drug Dealing on Private Rental Property.” Security Journal 11:37–43.

National Institute of Justice. 1999. Reducing Crime and Drug Dealing by Improving Place Management: A Randomized Experiment. A Summary of Research by John E. Eck and Julie Wartell. National Institute of Justice Research Preview.
http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/fs000235.pdf
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Related Practices

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Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated practices that are related to this program:

Street-Level Drug Law Enforcement
This practice includes targeted-policing approaches for reducing drug and drug-related offenses. This practice is rated Promising in reducing reported, drug-related calls for services and offenses against persons. This practice is rated No Effects in reducing reported property offenses, public order calls for service, and total offenses.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Drug and alcohol offenses
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Violent offenses
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Property offenses
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Public order offenses
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
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Program Snapshot

Gender: Both

Geography: Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): Other Community Setting, High Crime Neighborhoods/Hot Spots

Program Type: Community and Problem Oriented Policing, Community Crime Prevention , Situational Crime Prevention

Targeted Population: Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Offenders

Current Program Status: Active

Program Director:
Drug Abatement Response Team
1200 Third Avenue, 5th Floor, MS 61
San Diego CA 92101
Phone: (619) 533-5500
Website

Researcher:
John Eck
University of Cincinnati
P.O. Box 210389
Cincinnati OH 45221-0389
Email