Crime Free Multi-Housing Program Keeps Illegal Activity off Apartment Properties

 

Your residents may be convinced that they are living in a safe environment. But a recent Gallup poll says that fewer Americans believe that violent crime is on the rise, when, in fact, it’s been ticking upward the past couple of years.

Violent crime has increased more than 30 percent from 2010-12, according to federal data, and while 64 percent of Americans agree that it’s on the upswing, that number represents 4 percent fewer who thought so a year ago.

It’s no secret that crime can be an issue at apartment communities. While violent crimes are not the norm, drug dealing, domestic abuse and burglaries are at many multifamily properties. Drug activity alone can drop property values, create property damage (including fire), divide property managers and residents, and ultimately chase off valued tenants, according to the International Crime Free Association (ICFA).

But ICFA’s Crime Free Multi-Housing program to combat criminal activity is making a difference, at least in one North Texas city where apartments are taking a bite out of crime. According to police, crime has dropped in Haltom City in the last two years since the city introduced Crime Free to its 29 apartment communities.

The 26 percent drop in apartment crimes and 27 percent decrease overall is welcome relief to a community that has been among higher crime areas in Tarrant County − from 2001-08 Haltom City had a higher crime rate than the national average. Police thank the Crime Free Multi-Housing program.

“We can’t say that (the decreases) were attributed to Crime Free, but Crime Free was implemented during that time,” says Haltom City P.D. spokesperson Nelda Parker, who works closely with the department’s Crime Free Coordinator Officer, Brandi Perkins. “In training, (ICFA) told us it can’t not work. It sounded too good to be true. But if you stick to it, it’s going to benefit you.”

Apartment Properties Nationwide Strive to Be Crime Free

Haltom City is just one example of dozens of apartment communities around the country that have reduced crime on the property through Crime Free certification. With 31 percent of housing drawn from the apartment sector, the city is a natural for the program.

Founded in Mesa, Ariz., in 1992, Crime Free is visible in 44 U.S. cities, Canada, and several foreign countries. The three-step program engages police and apartment properties to create an environment with lower crime rates, drugs and gangs.

The association says that in a survey of 21 apartments that police calls for service were reduced 37 percent, and 48 percent fewer police reports were generated for crimes. A page of testimonials from certified Crime Free properties offers plenty of encouraging results.

Resident Participation Key to Program Success

The program has three phases that apartment communities must complete under the watchful eye of the hosting police department to achieve Crime Free certification. Property managers can be individually certified as well as the property, and there is more to it than planting a “Neighborhood Watch” sign (a plaque is available for certified properties to post in lobbies or common areas).

The beauty of the program is that while police departments are ultimately the enforcers, residents are actually those who are responsible for maintaining order as much as possible. Under the program guidelines, each resident is asked to sign a Crime Free Lease Addendum stating he or she will not engage in, or facilitate, criminal activity at any place on the property.

The police also evaluates whether the property’s appearance encourages crime through a Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) Survey. The compliance of doors, windows, and locks is evaluated as well as exterior lighting, key control procedures, and landscape maintenance standards.

Crime Free Program Helps Police

Parker said that while not all apartment communities in the city are fully certified, the program is in place at most and the results are noticeable. Police have had little pushback from properties when asked to participate, and the department has been recognized at the national level twice for its efforts. Residents at participating apartments have come forward and expressed gratitude.

Even the city’s police officers, who at first were skeptical because it was one more piece of paperwork to administer, have a warm and fuzzy about the program. Parker said one officer remarked that his workload has decreased because one particular crime hot spot has dried up.

“That’s what we want to hear!”

 

(Image Credit: Shutterstock)

 

 


Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

author photo two

Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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