Studies identifying and explaining the patterns of service allocations within cities have proliferated in recent years. Methodologies have been refined and the quality of data has improved. Theories of service distribution tested in the research are largely of three types: (1) those that stress “underclass” explanations of racial, economic and/or political discrimination; (2) those that stress service conditions or neighborhood needs; and (3) those that stress bureaucratic decision rules. This article presents findings on the determinants of intra-city distribution patterns for sanitation, fire and police services in New York. These findings highlight some of the difficulties of existing explanations and suggest that a bureaucratic decision rule (BDR) model provides more guidance in interpreting frequently confusing and contradictory results. Though specific rules are hard to identify, use of the BDR model enables more meaningful policy recommendations.