Establishing Protocol

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      Code enforcement strategies, funding and methods vary greatly from city to city, and county to county. Each locality faces it's own special concerns, neighborhood problems and community goals. Similarly, some areas are well funded and can afford to be aggressive, while others are hopelessly underfunded, and are fighting daily just to react to incoming complaints.

      Thus, there is obviously no single or universal "best" way to set up your particular program. But there is a better and more efficient way to run it — namely: establish a set protocol, and stick to it, time after time ... again and again.

      Establishing a protocol means reducing your program to a series of "steps," and then following these steps in the same manner in every case. For example, a program could be divided into a series of existing common events in a given code enforcement case file, such as "complaint call; inspection; 1st letter to violator; inspection; 2nd letter to violator; inspection; 3rd letter to violator; inspection; office conference with violator; inspection; and legal action.

      Once the steps are identified and written out, they should be evaluated, discussed and either adopted or rejected, as a matter of policy and protocol, for use in all future cases. Thus, in the above example, the city has opted to allow three (3) city letters, numerous inspections, and an office conference with the violator, before recomending any legal action or citations. This is a lenient and patient strategy, which some municipalities may prefer (they would rather not take the aggressive approach).

      Often, a more aggressive approach is desired. Thus, some cities will specify that a violator will be extended only two (2) compliance letters before enforcement remedies, such as citations or court action, are to be used.

      The key is to choose your steps, set your system, and then abide by it in every case. This "automatic" procedure will yield immeasurable rewards over time. Employees (and trainees) will make fewer mistakes; violators will be unable to argue that they are being unfairly treated or singled out (as all cases should be handled in the same manner); cases will move, and ultimately close, faster; and future violations will become less common, because the word gets out to the general public that the city will do what is necessary in every case.

      Establishing a code enforcement protocol is an easy way to streamline your program today. Try it! Click the link below to view's colorful online slideshow depicting a sample protocol.

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Author: DRL- City Prosecutors
Email: Steven H. Rosenblit at
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