People prowling around Portland with a spray can of paint now have their own prosecutor.

Trish McAllister has been hired by the city for a job financed partially by a Justice Department grant to track down the kind of offenses that don’t rise to the level of criminal activity, but still make a community a less pleasant place to live and work.

Considerable scholarship has explored what’s called the “broken-window” urban environment.

Researchers found that conditions such as widespread graffiti, piles of trash or discarded furniture, loud partying and fights, and rundown buildings in which missing windows were not replaced, created an atmosphere in which more serious crime increased because it appeared that no one cared about maintaining standards. The “community policing” movement came out of this research, leading to more officers returning to beats and neighborhood police offices being established.

McAllister, who works for the Portland police, gives tickets carrying fines to people who break city ordinances against acts such as public urination, graffiti-spraying, loitering, littering and panhandling. Another target is landlords cited for “maintaining a disorderly house” by attracting numerous complaints.

Her official title is community justice advocate, but “neighborhood prosecutor” is what she’s being called. While she doesn’t represent the district attorney, people who ignore her tickets can end up in court, so her citations come with teeth.

She has also recommended changes to local ordinances that would require landlords to pick up tenants’ trash and strengthen the disorderly-house standard so action can be taken with fewer complaints.

Her goal is to show that taking small bites out of crime make it less likely you’ll have to take big ones.