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«Commanders Report: Pacific Southwest Research Station Nationwide Study General Technical Report PSW-RP-254 September 2007 Deborah J. Chavez and ...»

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Forest Service Patrol Captains and Patrol Commanders Report: Nationwide Study Introduction Crime and acts of violence are a part of the national forest setting and are making the work of national forest and grassland managers more hazardous and are jeopardizing the safety of forest users. To understand and respond appropriately to current and future Forest Service law enforcement needs, it is important to hear from the professionals most closely associated with these issues—patrol captains and commanders (PCs) of the USDA Forest Service (USFS).

Another incentive for conducting this study was to respond to the federal initiative for performance-based measures. As a consequence of budget cuts and competing demands for federal dollars, the USFS must demonstrate its accountability to Congress, the Office of Management and Budget, the Government Accountability Office, and the general public for its level of performance. Under the aegis of the Credibility through Accountability/Performance Accountability System (CTA/ PAS), USFS Law Enforcement and Investigations (LEI) was tasked with developing and implementing performance outcome measures. Law Enforcement and Investigations also wanted recognition for the benefits that accrue to visitors, employees, and cooperators beyond what is addressed in the performance measures. They wanted an opportunity to “tell their story.” They believe that “locking up bad guys and writing tickets” does not adequately describe the benefits they provide. This report includes CTA/PAS performance measures for USFS law enforcement as well as many of the stories, opinions, and institutional memories of dedicated USFS PCs.

This is the third in a series of studies addressing the CTA/PAS component. Previously, we reported the results of studies conducted with law enforcement officers (LEOs) and special agents in charge (SACs). Following this study, we will conduct the special agents study, and finally, the study that includes forest supervisors and district rangers. Results from those studies will appear in separate reports.

Background Research on national forest crime is limited. Historically, research efforts focused on vandalism (Christensen and Clark 1978), especially graffiti and target shooting.

More recently, Munson (1995) noted problems such as the dumping of garbage and toxic chemicals, vandalism, marijuana cultivation, and timber thefts. Marosi (1999) found that national forests were being used as a dumping ground for murders committed elsewhere, especially in urban-proximate forests (those within an hour’s drive of a million or more people). Pendleton (1996) found a 100-percent increase in national forest crime from 1989 to 1992. More recently, Chavez and Tynon (2000) found that clandestine methamphetamine manufacture and methamphetamine

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resource specialists, and recreation planners, as well as interviews with those outside the agency (e.g., county sheriff’s deputies, a resort owner, public relations employees, and community representatives). The benefit of conducting indepth interviews is in its flexibility. Respondents can “elaborate, question, go off on (informative) tangents, and often provide answers to questions that the interviewer did not foresee being asked” (Lersch 2004: 25).

The interviews revealed problems common at both sites. These included assaults, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and problems created by gang activity or members of extremist groups. Isolation or distance from assistance was also a familiar theme. Watershed events occurred that led to action (a riot at one site and a murder at another). Some of the specific actions taken to manage crime and violent acts and events were (1) development of sites, (2) addition of physical barriers (categorized as prohibition and harm reduction actions), (3) control of parking and motor vehicles, (4) increased law enforcement, (5) temporary and permanent closures, and (6) traffic checkpoints.

Evaluation of the case studies resulted in the identification of key characteristics of success in law enforcement. The key characteristics were force of personalities (i.e., attention to an area depended upon individuals, not on policies), resources (i.e., money and people), persistence (i.e., planning, consistency, and visibility), collaboration (i.e., within the Forest Service, with other law enforcement agencies, with community and volunteer groups, and with recreation visitors and recreation clubs), and communication (i.e., follow a communication plan, get the word out to the public, be reliable and be consistent).

The replication of site-specific actions might prove useful in other areas. The take-home message was that successful crime mitigation characteristics (e.g., force of personalities, resources, persistence, collaboration, and communication) are not “business as usual” for law enforcement—they go beyond the cooperative agreements that already exist.

Data collection issues on national forests— Obtaining statistical data to substantiate how much crime is occurring in USFS settings has been difficult because of the way crime is reported and recorded.

Agreements between the USFS and other law enforcement entities can result in several agencies tracking crime. Local sheriffs track incidents by using categories based on the Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) guide. Part I of the UCR includes categories such as criminal homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, and arson.

Part II includes other assaults, drug violations, stolen property (receiving, buying, possessing), vandalism, weapons-related offenses, driving under the influence, 3 RESEARCH PAPER PSW-RP-254

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• Ascertain whether PCs perceive that acts of crime and violence are changing, and, if so, why.

• Determine PCs’ perceptions of the impacts of crime and violence on recreation visitors and other forest users.

• Establish measures of law enforcement success.

• Identify successful LEI programs nationally, regionally, and locally.

• Test the key characteristics of law enforcement success.

• Identify additional successful strategies used by PCs to deal with crime in forest settings.

Methods Several individuals reviewed the first draft of the questionnaire, including staff within LEI. We enlisted the cooperation and participation of all PCs across the United States by including an endorsement letter from the LEI deputy director. We administered the questionnaire via e-mail between June and July 2005.

There were 48 questions, both closed- and open-ended,2 on the questionnaire eliciting information about crime and violence that had occurred within the past year on each respective administrative unit. Four questions measured experience levels of respondents: years in law enforcement, years with USFS, years worked as a PC with the USFS, and years at current duty station. Questions that focused on respondents’ areas of responsibility asked about the number of acres respondents normally patrol as well as the number they are responsible for, the patrol setting (e.g., urban, semirural, remote), and the number of incidents they were personally involved in. We also asked them to characterize their most common public contacts and to describe how they communicate with others in the USFS.

The PCs were asked a series of questions related to enforcement levels on an average day. This included questions about cooperation with other agencies/groups, and perceptions about the adequacy of that coverage. Questions also addressed perceptions about authority and jurisdiction as well as resources necessary to do the job.

Questions that focused on their roles in the USFS asked how their job fits into the USFS, what they perceived as their highest work priority, what they believe the relationship of LEI with the rest of the USFS should be, and where LEI fits 2  Questions with no response categories provided to respondents are called open-ended.

Responses are divided into response categories after reading all responses. Many respondent comments have been paraphrased to help ensure confidentiality.

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Data Analysis The data were entered into an SPSS v. 12 software program.3 We ran frequencies on all variables to confirm data integrity. SPSS was used to analyze all variables.

Either percentages or averages (and standard deviations) are provided, as appropriate.

Results Of the 79 questionnaires sent via e-mail, 70 were completed and returned, for a response rate of 88.6 percent. Results are reported for all respondents unless noted otherwise.

Demographics Sociodemographic questions used to describe the respondent population addressed gender, age, race/ethnicity, and education level. Most of the PC respondents were male (86 percent). They averaged 49.5 years of age (n = 69; SD = 5.35).

The majority of PC respondents were White (74 percent), although some were Native American (6 percent), African American (3 percent), or multiracial (3 percent). There was also one Latino and one Asian, and several others who declined to identify race/ethnicity (10 percent). Years of school completed averaged 15.4 years (n = 63; SD = 1.81), with 43 percent holding an academic degree related to their work in law enforcement.

Four questions measured experience. The PC respondents had been in law enforcement an average of 19.7 years (n = 69; SD = 5.58) and with the Forest Service an average of 23.6 years (n = 69; SD = 8.29). Number of years as a LEO for the Forest Service ranged from 0 to 27 with an average of 15.3 years (n = 69;

SD = 5.85). Number of years as a patrol captain or patrol commander for the Forest Service ranged from 1 to 17 years with an average of 5.7 years (n = 69; SD = 3.32).

Background on Area of Responsibility The PC respondents were responsible for providing law enforcement coverage for a median 2.1 million acres in their primary area of responsibility (n = 67), and further noted that the LEOs in their area of responsibility normally accessed a median 1.39 million acres for patrol purposes (n = 52). The PC respondents reported there were a median 6 LEOs (n = 69) employed in their region.

3  The use of trade or firm names in this publication is for reader information and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture of any product or service.

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LEOs in their patrol area of responsibility was about right, and 37 percent reported the amount of FPOs in their patrol area of responsibility was about right.

The majority of PC respondents (97 percent) reported having cooperative agreements with other law enforcement agencies. Most reported agreements with county sheriff’s offices (93 percent) or with state police (21 percent). Some had similar agreements with city/town/community law enforcement (19 percent), or others (4 percent).

We asked on an average day how many sworn personnel from other law enforcement agencies provide Forest Service reimbursed law enforcement services on or affecting the NFS in the patrol area of responsibility. City/town/community law enforcement ranged from none to 7 (n = 20), with a median of zero sworn personnel. County sheriff’s office law enforcement ranged from none to 100 (n = 56) with a median of 3 sworn personnel. State police law enforcement ranged from none to 4 (n = 16), with a median of zero sworn personnel.

We also asked whether these reimbursed patrols offer adequate services in responding to or preventing crime. Perceptions about services from city/town/ community law enforcement for those who had them differed greatly with about 6 in 10 who reported they were adequate, while 36 percent reported they were inadequate. Perceptions about services from county sheriff’s law enforcement for those who had them also differed with 73 percent who reported them to be inadequate and 37 percent who reported them to be adequate. Perceptions about services from state police law enforcement for those who had them differed greatly with about two-thirds who reported they were adequate (64 percent) and about one-third (36 percent) who reported they were inadequate.

We asked on an average day how many sworn personnel from other law enforcement agencies provided nonreimbursed law enforcement services on or affecting the NFS in the patrol area of responsibility. City/town/community law enforcement ranged from none to 30 (n = 17), with a sworn personnel median of

1. County sheriff’s office law enforcement ranged from none to 100 (n = 38) with a median of 2 sworn personnel. State police law enforcement ranged from none to 40 (n = 36), with a median of 2 sworn personnel. “Other” law enforcement ranged from none to 15 (n = 23), with a median of 3 sworn personnel. “Other” included Fish & Game, Fish & Wildlife, Game Officers/Wardens, and Division of Wildlife/ Conservation.

We also asked whether these nonreimbursed patrols offer adequate services in responding to or preventing crime. Perceptions about services from city/town/ community law enforcement for those who had them were fairly evenly split— 45 percent reported they were adequate and 55 percent reported they were not.

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• 23 percent said they needed additional equipment • 22 percent said they needed fiscal increases:

Need monies for travel and specialized equipment.

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• 2 percent said there is a need to deputize LEOs • 2 percent said they needed up-to-date regulations • 3 percent had other comments

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The PC respondents were asked what they believed LEI’s relationship with the rest of the Forest Service should be. We grouped their responses into four


• 77 percent said the relationship should be one of collaboration and


A partner and team member; LEOs are the employees who often ■

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• 7 percent said LEOs provided information to enhance understanding • 1 percent said they made frequent contacts

Other relations were not as good:

• 36 percent said NFS line officers did not understand the complexity/hazards of the LEO job:

The majority of the staff officers do not understand or care that we ■ cannot meet all the requests for service that we receive.

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