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Making sense of partnerships: a study of police and housing department collaboration for tackling drug and related problems on public housing estates


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Jacobs, K, Burke, T, Green, M, Saggers, S, Mason, RL and Barclay, A 2007 , Making sense of partnerships: a study of police and housing department collaboration for tackling drug and related problems on public housing estates.

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In recent years, interdepartmental partnerships within the public sector have been heralded as
effective instruments for addressing complex social problems. For example, it is claimed that
they can motivate staff and facilitate innovative practices that lead to improvements in service
delivery. However, though partnerships are widely promoted as a panacea within the sector, there
is a paucity of research that has looked at them from a critical perspective or examined how they
operate in practice.
The aim of this project is to explore the realities of partnership working by focusing on
collaboration between the police and housing departments to tackle problems associated with
illicit drug activity and anti-social behaviour (ASB) on three Australian public housing estates.
The rationale for the project is that, though only a small minority of tenants are perpetrators, their
actions can seriously blight the lives of their neighbours. Usually it is the housing department that
responds to complaints relating to ASB but, in the more serious cases that are deemed criminal, the
police also perform a role.
Three locations were chosen as case studies. East Devonport in Tasmania and Girrawheen in
Western Australia are areas with a large public housing stock. In East Devonport ASB and illicit
drug activities are seen as nascent problems while in Girrawheen these problems are viewed as
more pervasive, but to date there has been only limited collaboration between the police and
housing departments. Collingwood in Victoria includes a large system-built housing estate that
has become a location for the buying and selling of drugs. In Collingwood, police and housing
departments have, for many years, worked on a series of partnership projects to address the
problem and to enhance community wellbeing.
The empirical component of the project entailed two stages. The fi rst stage initiated meetings
between the police and housing departments in order for them to agree to a memorandum of
understanding (MoU) on partnership protocols. The second stage reported on existing and new
activities undertaken by both departments over a twelve month period. The research methods
entailed participant observation, secondary data collection and qualitative interviews with key
personnel. The fi ndings from the case studies are structured around three thematic areas: setting
up partnerships, the benefi ts of partnerships, and the obstacles that can impact on partnership

Item Type: Report (Project Report)
Authors/Creators:Jacobs, K and Burke, T and Green, M and Saggers, S and Mason, RL and Barclay, A
Publisher: National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund
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