Best Practices


Mayor Paul Helmke

Community-Oriented Government

As the City of Fort Wayne moved to implement Community-Oriented Policing (COP) on a city-wide basis, Mayor Paul Helmke saw the need to create a companion program for the rest of city government. Fort Wayne's Community-Oriented Government program provides the problem-solving support for the COP's Neighborhood Liaison Police Officers and the 190-plus neighborhood associations in the city.

Four Area Partnerships, generally the four quadrants of the city, were developed as a conduit bringing neighborhood associations together on both individual and group problems. The Area Partnerships, made up of between 30 and 60 neighborhood associations each, provide monthly meetings for city staff to interact with the neighborhoods. The Partnerships act independently of one another. They invite speakers, hold discussions, and plan and implement programs for the benefit of their member neighborhood associations. The Partnerships have provided an excellent vehicle for city staff to discuss a wide range of topics.

With the Partnerships in place, city staff began a program of neighborhood prioritization. For example, staff requested that the neighborhoods participating in the Partnerships identify five properties that cause the most problems. These could be vacant houses or overgrown, tax-foreclosed vacant lots or sites with tenant-landlord problems. By having the neighborhoods prioritize concerns, city staff focuses resources on problems of greatest importance to the neighborhoods rather than simply waiting for the problem to come to the top of the list.

On the individual neighborhood association level, the Neighborhood Liaison Police Officer (NLPO) works with the association's representatives. If the officer and the association cannot resolve a problem, the problem is given to that Area Partnership's Directed Action Response Team (DAR Team). The DAR Team is chaired by one of the Area Partnership's police sergeants and is composed of representatives of various city divisions and departments. The DAR Teams work to resolve the problems presented to them by the NLPOs and the neighborhoods. Over 40 city staff members are part of the four DAR Teams.

The creation of the Area Partnerships and DAR Teams has had a very positive impact on city-neighborhood relations. The neighborhoods are working together as a group to tackle problems that individually they would not take on. City staff has a forum to discuss problems and a way to have neighborhoods set priorities. Neighborhoods know who to contact and how a problem will be handled. The City of Fort Wayne has found the DAR Teams important as both a problem-solving and an intra-agency communication tool.

Contact: Mary M. Tyndall, (219) 427-1111

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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