Published Wednesday 9pm
The Novato Police Department has launched a new program aimed at educating landlords and property managers about being more diligent about who they rent to in hopes of reducing crime and calls for service to their complexes.
It’s called Crimefree Multi-Housing and began in Mesa, Arizona in the ‘90s. Since then the program has been used by police departments all over the country who swear on its effectiveness.
This month, Crimefree Multi-Housing kicked off in Novato, with ten representatives from local complexes attending an eight-hour seminar at the police department. There they learned about why it’s important to conduct a background check on new tenants and how things like additional lighting and clean landscaping can improve safety for all residents, as well as the legal problems landlords can face if a crime occurs on their property.
“A lot of people take a deposit and credit check and that’s it, and you can be putting people at risk when you do that,” said Officer Nick Conrad, who is overseeing the program for the Novato Police Department. “What a lot of people don’t understand is that apartment managers have an obligation to offer a safe place to live and that they can be held liable if something happens there.”
Upon completion of the class, property managers are given something called a crime-free lease addendum, essentially a contract between the lessee and the management company that spells out which crimes will result in immediate eviction.
That involves things like shootings, making criminal threats, selling drugs or prostitution, creating a zero-tolerance policy for activities that make other tenants feel unsafe and attract future problems.
Crimefree Multi Housing is voluntary and there is no way the police can make a property owner participate. But Conrad says the response so far has been positive, although there are still many complexes to reach out to.
Similar programs already exist in San Ramon, Fairfield, Riverside and many other cities and suburbs around the country. The Riverside Police Department, for example, has seen a 75 percent drop in calls since implementation and credit it with freeing officers up to do other tasks.
“I have seen first hand how a crime ridden apartment complex can be turned into a livable, virtually crime free community,” said William Rodriguez, an officer with the Riverside Police Department, in an online testament. “The managers, residents, and patrol cops all love it. The managers love managing a crime-free property. The residents love living in a safe community and the "coppers" love the decline of calls for service... It’s a win-win situation for all.”
As a final phase of the program, the apartment complex holds a party where residents are urged to be involved in reporting suspicious behavior. Landlords also receive a placard to place in a prominent location, which can assure residents that they care about what goes on there and help prospective tenants when they’re hunting for a place to live, Conrad said.
The owners also receive a monthly printout about calls for service to their property.
Are you an apartment resident? If so, we want to hear from you. Does your complex need this program and if so, why?