Creating a crime-free property.
A program developed by the IFCA is designed to do just this. The ICFAs Crime-Free Program calls on the active participation and collaboration of three stakeholders--law enforcement, property management and tenants/residents--all working toward the common goal of making a property reasonably safe and improving the quality of life for residents by preventing problems before they become crime statistics.
Initially launched by Tim Zehring, an officer with the Mesa, Ariz., police department in 1992, the Crime-Free Program--which includes three phases that must be completed under the supervision of the local police department--has spread to nearly 2,000 cities in 44 U.S. states, five Canadian provinces, as well as Mexico, England, Finland, Japan, Russia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Puerto Rico. Property managers become individually certified after completing training in each phase, and the property becomes certified upon successful completion of all three phases.
THREE'S A CRIME
As part of the Crime-Free Program, a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) survey is conducted. The CPTED survey rests on the idea that the proper design and effective use of the built environment can lead to a reduction in both crime itself, and the fear surrounding crime. The CPTED survey takes into account how a property's design features, landscaping and natural access can become an invitation to the criminal element or can be corrected to create a barrier against illegal and inappropriate behavior.
Noel said that the second phase of the Crime-Free Program is to conduct a thorough inspection of the property. The CPTED survey incorporates an inspection to ensure that doors, windows and locks are in compliance with minimum standards, an evaluation of exterior lighting and landscape maintenance standards, and a review of key control procedures.
We look at peepholes, auxiliary locks for windows, deadbolts, threeinch screws in strike plates, landscaping and lighting" said Noel.
"How you trim your bushes and trees can be a huge factor in eliminat-ng--or inviting--criminal activity."
Speaking to the comprehensiveness of the survey, Noel pointed out that [the CPTED survey incorporates] both a day inspection and a night inspection. At nighttime, we're looking at lighting.
The CPTED survey also contains a maintenance review. A poorly maintained, deteriorating property indicates lack of concern by the tenants and owner and is regarded as a welcome mat to unwanted prospective tenants. A property that appears to he maintained, on the other hand, projects an image of a community that is safe, quiet and clean, and thus attracts good tenants. An effective maintenance program incorporates such practices as removing graffiti quickly, discouraging vandalism by prompt repair of damages and keeping the prop-ertv well-tended and litter-free.
"Your maintenance staff can be your eyes and ears," said Noel. "They need to know what to look for when they go into apartments or learn to recognize suspicious items being thrown into the garbage. That's why maintenance employees are part of the Clime-Free Program."
According to Noel, learning to identify the warning signs of criminal activity is of the utmost importance. While law enforcement officials are trained at this, property managers may not be as familiar with how to identify such activity.
SCREENING AND EVICTING
Acknowledging that crime-free properties attract and retain the kind of tenants that property managers want at their properties and contribute to a more solid bottom line, the implications of premises liability should not be ignored.
Noel issued a reminder that property owners, property management companies and property managers can be held liable for what occurs on their properties. Taking steps to eliminate criminal activities through a training program, such as the ICFA Crime-Free Program, can go far in the event of a lawsuit by demonstrating management is doing all it can to eradicate crime.
Police service calls and written police reports are the two key metrics used to measure the success of the Crime-Free Program. According to the IFCA, properties that have adopted the program have seen an average 37-percent reduction in police calls for service and a 48-percent decrease in written police reports. In many cities, the decreases have been much greater, reaching as high as 85 percent. The implication to property managers is undeniable. Reducing crime, according to Noel, "can lead to a more e and satisfied tenant base, lower maintenance and repair costs and increase a property's value."
In addition to helping property managers learn to identity signs of criminal activity and to discourage it, the program also offers insights into securing a more stable tenant base through screening and credit checks, as well as advice on what to do when a tenant engages in criminal activity. Many areas are now incorporating into their ordinances that the owner and manager are legally responsible for the criminal activity at a property.
"Under most of these ordinances, you are responsible for knowing what happens on your property and cleaning up your property when it comes to your attention that criminal activity is occurring," said Noel, who added that managers who don't take action could see their properties going into abatement.
"Once you find out that a tenant is doing something criminal, immediately start eviction proceedings," said Noel. "Don't be a manager who has blinders on and ignores the situation so long as the tenant is paying rent."
"CRIMINALS WILL BREAK DOWN EVERYTHING YOU'VE BEEN HIRED TO DO. THEY WILL DESTROY YOUR PROPERTY. THEY WILL DESTROY YOUR REPUTATION. THEY WILL DESTROY THE SURROUNDING NEIGHBORHOOD. AND IT CAN TAKE MONTHS-IF NOT YEARS-TO GET THAT REPUTATION BACK."
-- REBECCA NOEL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIME-FREE ASSOCIATION (IFCA), COMMUNITY SERVICE OFFICER FOR THE TUCSON POLICE DEPARTMENT AND SPEAKER AT THE 2011 IREM FALL LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE IN SAN DIEGO LAST OCTOBER.
EVEN WELL-MAINTAINED PROPERTIES CAN FALL INTO A CRIME TRAP WITHOUT A CRIME-FREE PROGRAM IN PLACE.
SCAN THIS QR CODE TO WATCH A VIDEO OF REBECCA NOEL'S PERSPECTIVE ON CREATING A CRIME-FREE PROPERTY.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE CRIME-FREE PROGRAM, GOTO WWW.CRIME-FREE-ASSOCIATION.ORG.
RELATED ARTICLE: The followin are indicators of illegal activity:
AN INCREASE (N PEDESTRIAN AND VEHICULAR TRAFFIC, OR UNUSUAL TRAFFIC PATTERNS. An increase in traffic activity by people who stop for only a brief period of time, or observing rental moving vans, which can be used as meth labs.
STRANGE OR UNUSUAL ODORS EMANATING FROM A UNIT. A strong ammonia smell, similar to that from a cat litter box, or the odor of chloroform, can be a sign of a methamphetamine drug laboratory.
CLOTHING "COLORS" AND INSIGNIA WORN BY TENANTS AND VISITORS. Red is a gang color. If it seems that everyone who visits a unit is wearing red, be suspicious. Observing tenants wearing a webbed belt, particularly with the end hanging down, could indicate they are "flying" colors to other gang members.
TRASH AROUND AN APARTMENT OR HOME. If your maintenance staff are finding a lot of trash, Especially right outside of the door, be concerned.
SUSPENDED LICENSE PLATES. This is one of the reasons you should not permit cars to back into parking space. You want to be able to see all license plates and make it easy for law enforcement officers to see license plates.
SUSPICIOUS PERSONAL BEHAVIOR. Pay attention to nervousness, body ticks, intense scratching, sores and watery eyes, particularly when tenants come to pay their rent. These behaviors are why meth users are called "tweakers."
EXCESSIVE AMOUNTS OF OTHERWISE UNSUSPICIOUS NORMAL HOUSEHOLD ITEMS. Common household items can be used to create meth labs: large cans of acetone, copper wiring, glass containers, glass coffee carafes containing strange red residue, large quantities of brake fluid and matchbooks with their striker pads removed.
NANCYEJ. KIRK (NKIRK@IREM.ORG) IS CHIEF STRATEGY OFFICER/VICE PRESIDENT OF THE GLOBAL SERVICES INSTITUTE OF IREM HEADQUARTERS IN CHICAGO.
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|Title Annotation:||International Crime Free Association|
|Comment:||Creating a crime-free property.(International Crime Free Association)|
|Author:||Kirk, Nancye J.|
|Publication:||Journal of Property Management|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2012|
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