Realizing that the traditional approach to drug enforcement was not working, the City of Akron Police Department decided to take a proactive approach. In addition to the existing narcotics unit, the Police Chief organized a street narcotics squad called SNUD, or Street Narcotics Uniform Detail. Using both highly-visible uniform and undercover officers, SNUD uses a zero tolerance approach and targets violent crime areas, street-level drug dealers and active drug houses within neighborhoods. The SNUD unit's handling of street-level and nuisance drug complaints enables the narcotics unit to work with local, state and federal agencies to concentrate on the major drug offenders.
SNUD officers also share information to help further enforce the zero-tolerance approach. Along with the Vice Squad, the Street Gang Unit, Patrol Officers, Narcotics Unit and Community Oriented Policing, SNUD officers compare notes and identify problems to attack the drug trade on the streets.
Numerous search warrants are executed every week. During these searches, officers find that most of the homes targeted are in deplorable condition. Due to the overwhelming number of these kinds of cases, the City of Akron created a special unit whose sole purpose is to inspect and evaluate homes for health and safety code violations. If homes are in violation, this unit, known as Project Happen, is authorized to condemn, raze or order repairs to the property.
Health Department inspectors from Project Happen follow up on complaints by citizens or police officers. Due to repeated threats to inspectors, SNUD or COP officers now accompany Project Happen on all inspections. From 1993 to 1996, Project Happen opened more than 800 new cases. Of those, 356 properties were brought into compliance, 242 houses were boarded up, 93 were razed and 14 were seized. In 1996, there were 374 police-related home inspections. Of those homes, 100 were boarded up and 28 drug houses were razed.
The increase in the number of drug cases prompted creation of the Drug Court Program which has been highly successful. In drug cases, there are sinners (abusers) and criminals (dealers). Sinners go to Drug Court for a one-year rehabilitation program and criminals go to prison. Seventy-five percent of the Drug Court clients successfully complete the program and do not become repeat offenders. This rate is far above officials' expectations and is even improving with time.
In Akron, officers have made thousands of arrests, boarded up and shut down hundreds of drug houses, taken many kilos of drugs and thousands of weapons off the streets. Working on multi-state offenders, and using all the resources available to them, officers have cleaned up many neighborhoods. There have been 155 new homes constructed in rehabilitated areas that were once havens for drug activity. Some of these homes were built on the property where drug houses once stood.
Contact: Office of the Mayor, (330) 375-2345
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright ©1996, U.S. Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.