Problem Identification:
There does not exist a formalized community conduit system through which local improvement efforts can be effectively coordinated and neighborhood volunteerism can be maximized.

Recommended Action:
Enlist neighborhood leaders to serve as volunteer “block captains” to coordinate interaction between the municipal government and neighborhoods.

Service Improvement

Functional/Operational Area:

Estimated Annual Impact:
While the immediate financial impact cannot be estimated, a neighborhood block captains program can be an effective mechanism for organizing residents to play an active role in the beautification and maintenance of neighborhoods and communicating to City departments communities’ special needs.

Estimated Implementation Costs:
Can be accomplished with existing resources.

Barriers to Implementation:

Projected Implementation:
90 days

Next Steps:
Determine the proper organizational placement for the block captains program, assign project management responsibilities, develop guidelines for becoming a block captain, and communicate information about the program to the public.

Regardless of how effective and efficient the City can be in the delivery of its services to the public, Baltimore’s residents must be active participants in neighborhood improvement efforts. With minimal resources and guidance, neighborhood block captains can become the City’s first-line of defense against neighborhood deterioration. Organizing a neighborhood block can be as simple as having a concerned resident gaining the support of a simple majority of block residents and transmitting this information to the City.

Organized blocks are more likely to be clean and well maintained and block captains can encourage neighborhood involvement in improvement efforts and promote community activism. City support of the program could take the form of extra trash pickups, donated cleaning supplies, and annual contests for the best-maintained neighborhood blocks. Furthermore, the program could establish an organizational framework to tackle a range of diverse issues such as neighborhood watch and large-scale community clean-ups.

In Philadelphia, nearly 40 percent of city blocks have block captains. Neighborhood blocks with designated captains are generally much cleaner than those that are not organized. In 1999, Philadelphia’s Streets Department collected 1,300 tons of garbage from blocks that participated in the City’s block captain program and recruited more than 100,000 volunteers to participate in neighborhood improvement efforts.