The Problem of Disorderly Conduct in a Condominium Complex
Problem Oriented Policing

Written By Brad Natalizio 11/23/10
The Problem of Disorderly Conduct in a Condominium Complex
Disorderly conduct in a condominium complex is a problem that can’t be taken lightly by the police. If ignored, the problem has the potential to develop into a more serious issue. By ignoring a pattern of disorderly conduct in a condominium complex, residents will become very frustrated, police community relations will decrease and the complex will look like a bad place to live, which may eventually decrease property value.

Disorderly conduct covers a variety of minor offenses, which may alarm or seriously annoy the community and create an image of poor quality of life. These minor offenses include engaging in fighting or violent tumultuous behavior, making unreasonable noise, using obscene language, obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic or congregating with other persons in a public place and refusing to comply with a lawful order of the police to disperse.

Related Problems
Disorderly conduct in a condominium complex is interrelated and may even lead to a variety of more serious related problems. The Broken Windows Theory suggests that if minor disorder is left unintended, it may lead to crime that is more serious and eventually a breakdown of community controls. 2 This guide addresses one of the core minor disorder problems, which is the root of many more serious related crime problems within the condominium complex. Additional problems which may coincide with disorderly conduct in a condominium complex include:
  • Street robberies,
  • Assaults,
  • Underage drinking,
  • Public intoxication,
  • Loitering,
  • Criminal mischief,
  • Narcotics/ marijuana sales,
  • Narcotics/ marijuana possession,
  • Reckless bicycle riding and skateboarding,
  • Graffiti,
  • Weapons offenses,
  • Larceny from vehicles, and
  • Noise.

Factors Contributing to Disorderly Conduct in a Condominium Complex
An understanding of the factors that contribute to disorderly conduct in a condominium complex is critical to analyze for your response. Factors that may contribute to the problem include residents not taking responsibility for the problem and not cooperating with police, and a risky environmental layout of the complex.

It is important to understand the reasoning for each of these factors and attempt to modify them through the response phase. There are also other factors which may act as the foundation for the act of disorderly conduct. 3 These factors may include:
  • Public intoxication,
  • Drug dealing, drug use,
  • Groups congregating,
  • Rival groups,
  • Cursing,
  • Playing music loudly,
  • Blocking sidewalks and streets,
  • Playing games in the street,
  • Verbal arguments, and
  • Lack of supervision.

Understanding Your Local Problem
In order to understand your local problem of disorderly conduct in a condominium complex, you must analyze the problem in order to create an effective response. Analysis, in the SARA model, is an in-depth analysis to understand the causes of the problem. 4 Analysis can come from quantitative or qualitative data. Quantitative data can come from police reports, such as the number of disorderly conduct complaints or arrests, or calls for service involving disorderly subjects. Qualitative data can be gathered from documented observations and conversations with residents in the complex. Many residents may not contact the police to report disorderly conduct in the complex due to fear of retaliation. Therefore, it is particularly important to retrieve qualitative data.

Asking the Right Questions
Asking the right questions during the analysis phase is critical to implement the best response to the problem of disorderly conduct in a condominium complex. The following are questions that should be researched during the analysis phase in order to implement the best response to the problem.

Residents
  • ​Are the residents afraid to walk around the complex? If so why?
  • What do the residents think the police can do better to solve the problem?
  • Who do the residents see causing the problem?
  • Do the residents call the police?
  • Where and when is the problem occurring?
Patrol Officers
  • What type of disorderly conduct patterns do patrol officers see on an everyday basis?
  • Are patrol officers identifying a particular person or group of people causing the problem?
  • What is the demeanor of disorderly subjects in the complex? Are they hostile? Are they intoxicated? Are they victims of another offense?
  • Are the patrol officers being proactive or reactive to disorderly conduct in the complex?
  • Where and when is the pattern occurring in the complex?
Offenders
  • Who are the most frequent offenders?
  • Are the offenders residents of the complex or visitors?
  • Why do they offend?
Arrests/ Complaints Filed
  • How many arrests occur in the complex? How many complaints? How many anonymous complaints? How many unfounded complaints? (can come from police reports)
  • What specifically do complainants complain about? (can come from police reports)
Locations/ Times
  • On what specific streets or blocks of the complex is there a disorderly conduct problem? (police reports can help identify as well as qualitative data gathered from police officers and residents)
  • What specific time of the day does disorderly conduct occur in the complex? (police reports can help identify as well as qualitative data gathered from police officers and residents)

Measuring Your Effectiveness
Measuring your effectiveness can be based on quantitative and qualitative data that was gathered before and after the response. 5 The following are positive measures of effectiveness related to disorderly conduct in a condominium complex:
  • Reduced police calls for disorderly subjects,
  • Reduced arrests for disorderly conduct,
  • Improved perceptions of residents,
  • Improved perceptions of the homeowners association,
  • Improved perception of patrol officers towards the complex, and,
  •  Reduced overall crime within the complex.

Responses to the Problem of Disorderly Conduct in a Condominium Complex
After an in-depth analysis of the problem of disorderly conduct in a condominium complex, it is time to implement a response. Although each condominium complex has its own unique characteristics and factors contributing to the problem, several responses may be able to deter the problem of disorderly conduct within the complex.

An effective strategy will consist of several different responses using a variety of resources and share responsibility with different groups in the community. The traditional police response to the problem will be altered to remove the causes and bring a long term reduction to the problem. 6 Effective responses include shifting and sharing responsibilities, improving lighting and video surveillance.  

Problem Oriented Policing relies strongly on partnerships between police and other organizations. Shifting and sharing responsibilities is an approach which distributes the responsibility of a particular problem to several organizations. In order for the shifting and sharing of responsibilities to be an effective means of solving the problem of disorderly conduct in a condominium complex, the appropriate organizations must be determined who are in the best position to implement the response. 7 Several methods that may be used are educating the residents regarding their responsibility for the problem, making requests to local establishments that sell alcohol to assume responsibility for the problem and pressing for the homeowners association to change a risky environmental layout, implement trespass rules, and conform with police recommendations of improved lighting, video surveillance and patrol officers being trained in Problem Oriented Policing to better understand the objective to remove the causes of the problem.  

General Requirements of an Effective Strategy
There are several general requirements that should be considered when developing your strategy. In order to solve the problem, police must take a step back from their traditional role and try to focus on the root of the problem. The police can do this by working closely with other organizations in a problem solving effort to remove the causes of the problem. The most effective response to disorderly conduct in a condominium complex relies heavily on a close working relationship with the homeowners association.

Specific Responses to Reduce Disorderly Conduct in a Condominium Complex
Shifting and Sharing Responsibilities

1. Educating the condominium residents. Police do have the ability to educate residents of the community regarding particular problems. Many police departments have officers who have gone through extensive training to be police instructors. Some of these instructors will teach at an academy or teach in-service training for the department. Police instructors are trained to understand the learning process, create a good learning environment, do research on the material to be presented and speak well in front of audiences. These instructors should be implemented to train residents of the complex in a community meeting atmosphere to educate them about their responsibility for the problem. The training will educate complainants as well as potential offenders and instruct the law, the importance of good intelligence, and how disorderly conduct affects the quality of life within their complex. The department should implement one police instructor to the complex. This officer will also act as a liaison officer between the condominium residents and homeowners association and police administration. The condominium liaison officer will promote trust, understanding, communication, and maintain a positive rapport between the residents of the condominium complex and the police department. This ongoing relationship between the police and community carries from the analysis phase throughout the response phase and into the assessment phase.

2. Making requests to local establishments that sell alcohol.  Intoxication and disorderly conduct are very much interrelated. It is safe to say that many of the disorderly conduct offenders are intoxicated at the time of the offense. There are several ways the police can request commercial establishments that sell alcohol to assume responsibility for the problem. The police can send out letters on department letterhead advising local establishments of the law and to check for proper identification. The police can then conduct undercover compliance checks. Undercover compliance checks will raise awareness with the overall goal of reducing alcohol sales to minors. The local establishments can also be requested to implement alcohol sales training programs. These programs will train employees of the establishments in essential elements of effective service. 8

3. Pressing the homeowners association to change a risky environmental layout. The environmental layout of the complex may allow or encourage offenders with an opportunity to commit a number of offenses, including disorderly conduct. Complexes may have parks, foot paths, playgrounds, basketball courts, swimming pools, alley ways, cul-de-sacs, and public and private roads. 9 Crime prevention, through environmental design attempts to reduce or eliminate those opportunities by using elements of the environment to control access, provide opportunities to see and be seen, define ownership of the condominium complex, and encourage the maintenance of territory. 10 Certain environmental conditions allow the offender(s) to congregate, consume alcohol, sell and use narcotics and marijuana and be hidden from surveillance. The homeowners association should be encouraged to:
  • Change narrow hidden footpaths,
  • Change dense tree and shrub vegetation,
  • Change hidden or secluded parks, playgrounds, basketball courts,
  • Put up fences and gates around parks to prevent access after hours.

4. Pressing the homeowners association to implements trespass rules. The New York State Penal Law defines trespass as someone knowingly entering or remaining unlawfully in or upon premises. Trespass is a violation. 11 The homeowners association can implement rules not giving anyone authority to enter the parks or certain private property after a certain hour. After an analysis of your disorderly conduct problem, problem parks and areas on private property can be targeted. The homeowners association can do this by putting up gates and fences with posted signs stating “No Trespassing” after a certain time based on quantitative and qualitative data. The homeowners association can then sign permission and authorities with the local police department, giving the police the authority to approach subjects congregating and give them trespass warnings and ultimately issue a summons if they do not cooperate.

Improving Lighting
5. Improve lighting in the condominium complex.
By implementing improved lighting in the complex, disorderly conduct offenders are more likely to be seen by someone who will call the police and provide an accurate description of the subject to the police. 12 Improved lighting equals better intelligence. The better the intelligence, the better the police can analyze and respond to the problem. Improved lighting may also place fear in the offender’s mind of being detected or apprehended. Improved lighting may also encourage residents of the condominium complex to spend more time outside, which may give the residents a feeling of belonging to the community and increase informal surveillance. With improved lighting, video surveillance will be more effective during the night.


Video Surveillance
6. Implement video surveillance.
 After an in-depth analysis of where the problem is occurring in the complex, the police can work with the homeowners association to implement video surveillance. Video surveillance would not only be used to investigate the disorderly conduct problem, but act as a disorderly conduct prevention strategy. When used during investigations, video footage can help identify offenders as well as witnesses who do not initially come forwards to the police. The recording of a disorderly conduct incident can assist in the investigation as well as give police intelligence. Video surveillance also gives offenders the perception that if they commit an offense, they will be caught. Video surveillance should be overt and in public view. 13 This will have the best impact in the disorderly conduct prevention strategy. Since a condominium complex may be split between private and public property, the operators of the system may be split between civilian and police members. The liaison officer should have a close working relationship with any civilian operator. The cameras will also reduce fear of crime in the complex and encourage residents to spend more time outside, giving them a sense of belonging in the community and increase informal surveillance.
 
Training Patrol Officers in Problem Oriented Policing
7. Training patrol officers in problem oriented policing.
The training of all patrol officers in problem oriented policing would be an effective response to the problem of disorderly conduct in a condominium complex. The police response to complaints of disorderly conduct should be structured based on a problem solving approach. Officers should stop running to individual calls for disorderly conduct and see what each call means. Officers should be aware that problem oriented policing is a method for analyzing and solving the problem. Officers should be aware that qualitative and quantitative data that they gather will be used to analyze and respond to the problem. Patrol officers are at the frontline and should play a major role in problem oriented policing because they observe specific problems on an everyday basis.


Responses with Limited Effectiveness
Tackling the problem of disorderly conduct in a condominium complex is not an issue that can be handled by the standard model of policing. The standard model of policing relies heavily on random patrol, rapid response, follow up investigations and arresting offenders. 14 Although some of these practices of the traditional model may be used to temporarily relieve the problem of disorderly conduct in the complex, it does not rid the problem from the complex.


Endnotes
1. New York State Penal Law (2010).
2. Wilson and Kelling.
3. Scott (2001).
4. Clarke and Eck
5. Eck (2002).
6. Clarke and Eck.
7. Scott and Goldstein (2005).
8. Dedel (2006).
9. Hilborn (2009).
10. Zahm (2007).
11. New York State Penal Law (2010).
12. Clarke (2008).
13. Ratcliffe (2006).
14. Weisburd and Eck (2004).

References
Clarke, R.V. (2008). Improving street lighting to reduce crime in residential areas. Problem Oriented Guides for Police, 8, 1-48.
Clarke, R.V., & Eck, J.E. Crime analysis for problem solvers in 60 small steps. Community Oriented Policing Services.
Dedel, K. (2006). Underage drinking. Problem Oriented Guides for       Police, 27, 1-90.  
Eck, J.E. (2002). Assessing responses to problems: an introductory guide for police problem-solvers. Problem Oriented Guides for Police, 1, 1-92.
Hilborn, J. (2009). Dealing with crime and disorder in urban parks. Problem Oriented Guides for Police, 9, 1-68.
New York State Penal Law (2010)
Ratcliffe, J. (2006). Video surveillance of public places. Problem      Oriented Guides for Police, 4, 1-100.
Scott, M.S. (2001). Disorderly youth in public places. Problem Oriented Guides for Police, 6, 1-46.
Scott, M.S., & Goldstein, H. (2005). Shifting and sharing responsibility for public safety problems. Problem Oriented Guides for Police, 3, 1-53.
Weisburd, D., & Eck, J.E. (2004). What can police do to reduce crime, disorder, and fear? The ANNALS of American Academy of Political and Social Science, 593(42), 42-59.
Wilson, J.Q., & Kelling, G.L. Broken windows. The Police and Neighborhood Safety, 1-10.
Zahm, D. (2007). Using crime prevention through environmental design in problem solving. Problem Oriented Guides for Police, 4, 1-80.
Back to Problem Oriented Policing