From mass shootings to human trafficking and the opioid crisis to domestic violence, media floods our world with stories about violence and crime. This bad news barrage overwhelms, angers, and alarms apartment residents, government officials, and AATC members. Given this heightened awareness and concern, multifamily housing professionals face increasing pressure to reduce criminal activities at their properties.
While it is impossible to eliminate crime at rental housing properties, AATC members have access to numerous resources to help reduce crime. As always, the REDBOOK is an excellent resource. Begin by reading, “A Checklist of Ideas to Help Deter Crime in Texas Rental Housing.”
This article by TAA General Counsel Sandy Hoy lists more than eighty-five proactive steps multifamily owners/operators can take to reduce crime. Hoy’s ideas include common sense approaches to crime prevention (e.g. screening potential employees and residents; using the TAA Lease and Application, locking vacant apartments; installing keyless deadbolt locks; etc.) and innovative techniques (e.g. scrambling parking space numbers so that parking space numbers are not the same as apartment numbers; buying an electric engraver that residents can borrow to mark their property; keep a digital record of all on-site files, so if an ownership or management change occurs, you can give paper files to new entity and keep the electronic copy.
Hoy recognizes that not every crime prevention idea is appropriate or financially feasible. She notes every property is unique with its distinct location, submarket, criminal history, resident profile, financial circumstances, and physical features. However, this list should be used to spark discussion about actions that can be implemented at members’ properties.
Crime Stoppers of Tarrant County is another resource available to AATC members. I have the privilege of serving as Vice-Chair of Crime Stoppers of Tarrant County. Crime Stoppers of Tarrant County utilizes information from anonymous tipsters to arrest felony offenders. Since its inception in1982 in Tarrant County, Crime Stoppers has paid more than $1.6 million in rewards and recovered nearly $30 million in property and narcotics. Tips have led to the arrested of more than 7,200 criminals and help clear more than 12,200 cases. cleared.
Based on the theory that someone other than the offender has information regarding a crime, Crime Stoppers was created to combat three major problems faced by law enforcement: fear of reprisal, an attitude of apathy, and a reluctance to get involved. Crime Stoppers addresses these obstacles by offering anonymity to people who provide information about a crime and paying rewards when the information supplied leads to an arrest.
The Crime Stoppers hotline, 817-469-TIPS (8477) and website are operated by the Crime Stoppers of Tarrant County Call Center. The call center is staffed by off-duty public safety dispatchers and other trained personnel, who take calls and online submissions and then disseminate the tip information to the appropriate law enforcement agency for investigation.
Each caller will receive a tip number to be used in all future correspondence. Every tipster remains ANONYMOUS; callers do not have to identify themselves. A reward of up to $1,000 will be offered to anyone who provides a tip that leads to an arrest for a crime or a criminal case cleared.
Crime Stoppers of Tarrant County takes crime tips for all municipalities and school districts in Tarrant County.
Many AATC members are hesitant to put Crime Stoppers posters in common areas or distribute information to residents about Crime Stoppers. Their reluctance reflects the idea that AATC members do not want the perception that crime occurs on their property. To the contrary, if Crime Stoppers information is prominently displayed, crime is reduced.
Local police departments are the best crime reduction resource available to AATC members. AATC strongly encourages our members, especially on-site personnel, to establish and maintain strong relations with police officers assigned to your area. Most law enforcement agencies in Tarrant County have Neighborhood Patrol Officers (NPOs) or officers assigned specifically to multifamily properties. Many NPOs conduct monthly area manager meetings. These meetings are an excellent opportunity to interact with law enforcement officials, network with fellow property managers, and learn about crime prevention methods.
Several police departments in Tarrant County have implemented some version of the Crime Free Multifamily program. Crime Free has three parts: 1) crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED); 2) crime watch meetings; and 3) Crime Free lease addendum to the lease. CPTED includes trimming hedges, ensuring exterior lighting works, access control; etc. Incorporating residents into the crime prevention process is the purpose of crime watch meetings. Crime Free originated in Arizona. The Crime Free lease addendum addressed deficiencies in Arizona law. TheCrime Freeaddendum gives landlords the ability to evict leaseholders for criminal activity. The Crime Free addendum is unnecessary for AATC members that use the TAA Lease forms (apartment, residential, etc.). All TAA Lease forms contain more than sufficient language to evict residents for their occupants’, or guests’ criminal activity. However, some AATC members elect to use the Crime Free addendum to reinforce this capability.
Crime occurs. Use the above tools and eventually you’ll see it diminish in Tarrant County.