U.S. Mayor Article

No Parking Ordinance Key to Neighborhood Turnaround in Anaheim
California City's Community Policing Unites Apartment Owners, Residents in Anti-Crime Initiative

April 3, 2001


In 1993, an Anaheim neighborhood of 5,000 residents in 700 apartment units was responsible for a disproportionately high, 2,100 calls for police service. The calls involved incidents ranging from assaults and drive-by shootings to nuisance crimes such as drinking in public and vandalism. Over the years, the neighborhood, known as Leatrice/Wakefield, had become notorious for its rampant narcotics sales and use and its gang activity, and had come to be recognized as the worst neighborhood in the City. The Anaheim Police Department estimated that policing Leatrice/Wakefield consumed one percent of its total budget. The situation deteriorated to the point that the local school district would not send buses into the neighborhood to pick up students, requiring them to meet the buses on the outskirts of the community.

The apartments in the Leatrice/Wakefield neighborhood were grouped in an assortment of 99 generally overcrowded and blighted buildings. No grass grew in the parkways. Vehicles lining the streets served as bases for drug dealing and late-night beer drinking and as gathering spots for gang members. They also shielded drug dealers and gang members from view when police officers drove by.

During the early 1990s, the Anaheim Police Department launched several aggressive enforcement initiatives in Leatrice/Wakefield. While these would generally produce immediate improvements in the neighborhood crime situation, none would make a lasting difference. By 1995, the failure of traditional police responses had prompted the Police Department to try something less traditional: the assignment of two police officers to work full time with the community on long term solutions to its problems.

One of the first problems confronted by the officers was that Leatrice/Wakefield's apartment buildings were privately owned by several individuals, most of whom lived outside the community, and had little responsible on-site management. The officers began by identifying and contacting the landlords, informing them of the community-wide effort to reverse Leatrice/Wakefield's downward spiral, and enlisting their help in removing problem tenants and reducing overcrowding in their units. A Neighborhood Advisory Committee consisting of owners and tenants was formed by the City's Office of Neighborhood Services, and leaders in both groups emerged.

The community officers quickly learned that peer pressure was key to solving the neighborhood's problems: Cooperative owners, recognizing that improvements in the neighborhood and the removal of problem residents would pay dividends to them, pressured reluctant owners to join the effort. Owners also felt pressure from the City's Code Inspection Department: An aggressive inspection program threatened prosecution if buildings were not brought up to standards.

No Parking Ordinance

One of the most difficult elements of the Leatrice/Wakefield initiative to implement, and perhaps the most important to the community's eventual recovery, was a parking ban on all surface streets in the neighborhood. Sought because of the problems created by vehicles crowding the streets, the "No Street Parking" ordinance, when initially proposed, met with resistance in the community: Apartment owners feared that the inconvenience it posed would discourage and displace renters. Tenants were reluctant to clean out their single-car garages in order to park their vehicles (many of which were inoperable) and were concerned about parking for additional cars they owned as well as parking for their visitors. The ordinance also faced a legal challenge from street vendors working in the area and a few residents, but the City prevailed in court.

The ordinance was implemented in two phases: In phase one, parking was eliminated on one side of the seven neighborhood streets affected. During the first two weeks of phase one, police officers issued parking violation warnings only; following this, regular parking citations were issued. About two months later, based on a positive assessment of the first phase of the implementation, parking was eliminated on the remaining side of the neighborhood's streets.

Implementation of the ordinance was preceded by a neighborhood clean-up day on which 15 junked cars were towed from garages and parking spaces by the City, and several other inoperable vehicles were either repaired or removed by their owners. Many of the apartment owners added parking spaces on their property to help offset the loss of the street spaces.

By the time the parking ban ordinance was approved by the City Council, an estimated 85 percent of the apartment owners favored it, even though they were concerned that the ban might increase the vacancy rate in the neighborhood. Within one month of its implementation, however, this concern was put to rest: There were a dozen fewer vacancies than before, and additional new tenants were expected.

One year after the parking ban went into effect, an evaluation by an interdepartmental committee overseeing the initiative found a dramatic decrease in criminal activity in the neighborhood and a reduction in calls for police service, a positive impact on vacancy rates (down 14 percent), and a significant improvement in the visual appearance of the neighborhood.

"This is an excellent example of the effectiveness of Anaheim's community policing," says Anaheim Mayor Tom Daly. "The Police Department organized a total community effort, successfully establishing unique partnerships within various segment of the neighborhood to address specific problems. Anaheim has proven that community policing works: Crime has been reduced and the quality of life has improved for all residents."

Additional information on Anaheim's approach to community policing, including the Leatrice/Wakefield initiative, is available from Sergeant Paul Dohmann at 714-765-1522.

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