Best Practices

Mayor Edward Vincent

Shopping Cart Abatement

About a year and a half ago, Inglewood Mayor Edward Vincent started receiving an increased number of complaints from residents regarding abandoned shopping carts in the community. An in-depth review of the situation revealed that there was a proliferation of abandoned shopping carts throughout the city; several hundred thousand carts appeared on the streets of Inglewood annually. These carts not only created a nuisance in many neighborhoods, but also posed a hazard to both pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

As a result of these findings, the Mayor invited all local grocers to a meeting to discuss the issue. This meeting yielded a commitment by the grocers to improve their retrieval operations. Despite over a year of varying levels of effort and additional meetings conducted by the Mayor, the problem persisted and, to some degree, worsened.

In December 1994, the Inglewood City Council approved an ordinance giving the city the authority to remove abandoned shopping carts from public rights-of-way. Officials voluntarily delayed implementation of the program until April to provide merchants one last opportunity to resolve the problem without city intervention.

With no recognizable improvement, the abatement program began on April 10, 1995. The program is operated entirely with city personnel; it was not privately contracted to minimize the fiscal impact. Carts are retrieved by field crews and stored at the city's maintenance facility.

Abatement notices are sent to store owners describing the number of carts that the city has retrieved and the procedures for picking up the carts. There is a $15 administrative fee assessed for each shopping cart retrieved. An appeal process is also outlined in the notice letter. Owners have 30 days to retrieve their carts. After that time, carts are either sold at public auction or otherwise disposed of.

In the short time since its inception, the shopping cart abatement program appears to be a success in its goal of reducing the number of abandoned carts in Inglewood. The city has removed almost 500 shopping carts from public rights-of-way. This has resulted in a recognizable decrease in the number of abandoned shopping carts found in these areas. Inglewood residents are able to assist city personnel in retrieving abandoned carts by calling a special shopping cart abatement telephone hotline.


Inglewood Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving (I-COPPS)

In serving the needs of Inglewood's culturally diverse population base, the Inglewood Police Department has been particularly successful with the implementation of the Inglewood Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving (I-COPPS) Program. Breaking down barriers comprises the heart of I-COPPS.

Implemented in February 1994, I-COPPS emerged as an ambitious attempt to introduce the concept of "community policing" to the Inglewood Police Department. A $1 million grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice enabled the Inglewood Police Department to fund the creation of eight full-time sworn police positions to operate police centers (Neighborhood Public Safety Centers) out of four elementary schools located throughout the city.

A reflection of Inglewood's culturally diverse makeup, the officers selected for the program (referred to as Lead Officers) are themselves a varied and diverse group. Four of the eight officers speak Spanish and they are mixed by ethnicity, gender, experience, and police expertise. I-COPPS also includes other sworn and civilian specialists in neighborhood watch, business watch, police volunteers, and DARE.

After one year of operation, I-COPPS finds that it touches nearly every significant segment of the community on a sustained basis: churches, schools, block clubs, business associations, property owners, social service agencies, the courts, and other city agencies. By having direct access to police officers assigned to, and responsible for, a specific geographical area of the city, citizens have felt more confident that their concerns are being addressed. The response to I-COPPS has been overwhelmingly positive in this respect. Citizen volunteers of all ages and ethnic backgrounds have helped to staff the elementary school NPSCs.

I-COPPS relies upon a partnership among police officers, citizens and all facets of the community. As a result of the implementation of the I-COPPS Program, the city has noticed greater participation of residents and businesses in government.


Customer Service Excellence

The ability to deliver customer service excellence is the single most valuable asset public organizations possess. Citizens, elected officials and many public employees themselves want and expect service equal to the standard set by many of the top-performing private organizations. We have moved into the era of service management, where public organizations must think strategically about service, build a strong service orientation around and into their future, and manage the design, development and delivery of services effectively and efficiently. Service management means turning the whole organization into a customer-driven entity. It is a comprehensive, city-wide change program structured toward focusing each department's attention toward one end -- delivering customer satisfaction.

In April 1989, the City of Inglewood initiated its Service Excellence Program with the goal of identifying each department's internal and external customers, developing systems and processes designed to improve customer services, and providing training and resources to support the service orientation.

Five interrelated phases comprise Inglewood's Service Excellence Program, the main goal of which is to develop a service-minded culture throughout the city organization. During the first phase, top management commitment to customer satisfaction is established and a clear vision of each department's service mission statement, workable and easy to understand by the employees, is developed. In the second phase, actions are taken by employee task teams to implement service delivery improvements by identifying key blockages to delivering quality customer service and proposing solutions to removing those blockages. Phase three includes training all employees in the basic customer service skills necessary to figuring out the right actions and tactics to use with customers, along with the behavioral skills of dealing with a variety of customer behaviors. Phase four is designed to reinforce the customer service culture and institutionalize the service delivery systems. The fifth phase is a continuing training process, consisting of professional and personal development training in such areas as dealing with difficult customers, building effective work teams, sharpening telephone and counter contact skills, maintaining positive mental attitudes, managing stress in the workplace, time management, developing positive assertiveness, and understanding and dealing with cultural diversity, both in the workplace and in the community.

Unique to the process is the training-of-trainers component. Full-time city employees serve as facilitators to carry out the goals and objectives of the program throughout all city departments. Customer service and professional development training and consultation in specific customer service areas is developed and conducted by employee-trainers, thereby saving an estimated $45,000 annually with in-house training versus off-site training.


Graffiti Abatement

Approximately eight years ago the City of Inglewood declared a "no tolerance" stance on graffiti for both public and private property. What began as a fledgling neighborhood clean-up program has evolved into a full scale city-wide abatement program which incorporates the participation of civic groups, court referrals, and the city.

With the initial commitment of city funds, the Council established a graffiti abatement section composed of three full-time and several part-time painters. These crews, often augmented with court referrals and general relief recipients, are dispatched from a 24-hour hot line which allows citizens to participate in finding and noticing graffiti.

Various equipment and methods are used to eradicate graffiti, depending on its location and the type of surface. By using sand blasters, paint and hot/cold water sprayers, the graffiti is removed with the least amount of damage to the affected areas. The purchase of a step van and mobile tint machine has allowed us to quickly remove graffiti. Paint donations from major corporations and others has also helped to ease the city's graffiti abatement budget. Free paint allows the abatement unit to paint private property as well as give paint to churches, block clubs and others for community clean-up efforts.

Although graffiti removal was the initial objective of the program, graffiti prevention has become an integral part. A culmination of efforts by the school system, including film presentations, coloring books, and a Certificate of Completion, has made students aware of graffiti prevention. Fourth and fifth grade students are shown the negative effects and costs of graffiti. They are asked to help in maintaining a clean and graffiti-free city. From a cooperative of time offenders, juvenile diversion staff and the graffiti coordinator an additional program has emerged. This program allows parents to monitor their children in graffiti removal efforts. Previously, youth offenders were required to spend hours with the graffiti crews, thus making the crews "baby-sitters" for delinquent youth.

A graffiti-free city imports a safe and secure feeling to both citizens and visitors to the city. To assist in this effort the "Inglewood Partners for Progress," a non-profit organization composed of the city's major corporations, joined forces with the city to donate money and a graffiti abatement truck to assist with graffiti abatement. The "Partners" have also provided the abatement program with ample resources to adopt a portion of the I-405 Freeway, allowing city crews to remove graffiti from freeway off-ramp signs. This helps to enhance the image of the city and makes visitors feel safe and secure upon entering.

Contact: Office of the Mayor, (310) 412-5300

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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