We recently heard a fantastic webinar about 10 Steps For Preventing and Suppressing Crime in Apartments, Condo Buildings and Communities. The speakers were:
Kerry Kirby, CEO of 365connect.com
Ernest Oriente, Property Manager expert with PowerHour
Brent Sobol, President of Sobol Realty
Officer Tim VanJohnson, 24 year veteran of the Atlanta Police Department
As we know, “crime is everywhere”. The 3 main crime drivers in residential communities (apartments, condos, etc) are dope, guns, and gangs. Part of the responsibility as a property manager is to be aware of these problem signs and take steps to stop it. The main goal is to look out for the well being of the community and put a plan into action to address any problems.
Please read below to find out the 10 Steps to Suppress Crime in Apartment Communities:
1. Know who is living in your apartments. This is very important! Be aware of who is “shacking up”. Often, the trouble makers are not who you lease to. Walk units twice a year, and don’t tolerate unauthorized occupants. Never walk units alone!
Use a technique called “knock and talk”, where you simply go to the door of an apartment of suspected mischief and just talk to them. It gives you a view into their apartments and lets them know as a community, you are concerned about behavior from this apartment. Screen people hard coming through the door for false income, ID, etc.
Knocks and talks allow the community to see management staff and officers interacting with residents on a regular basis, and not an enforcement basis. This creates a culture of crime prevention, and lets residents know management partners with police to prevent crime.
2. Handle the problems of trouble makers. Crime in apartments is often traceable to a small percentage. Keep an eye on unusual foot traffic. Encourage people to move out. Let them know their behavior is not what the community expects or tolerates. People are usually willing to leave on their own.
In a dense living environment, keep communication open. But how do you get residents to talk? Take action and talk to them- gain their trust. Let them know management is active and working with law enforcement. “Don’t alienate long term tenants because of a few bad apples. There is real ROI in taking crime seriously in apartments”.
3. Talk to parents & kids about problems. Parenting is important- some parents don’t know how or want to parent their unruly children and teens, and this can create horrible problems for management and the community. The average homicide suspect in Atlanta is 17 years old. Teens have the potential to be very violent and are exposed to different vices.
Take teen and parenting issues very seriously. If a child or teen is exhibiting a behavioral issue, take the behavioral issue to the parent, and if there is no improvement, have the family move out. Talk to the families about the image they portray. For example, they spoke with the parents of a resident whose elementary student was wearing a hat with a marijuana plant, and how it was inappropriate. Instead, they bought the child an Atlanta Braves cap.
4. Enforce community rules. This conditions residents to behave in a manner that is acceptable. For example, no bandannas. In Atlanta, their neighborhood is heavy with blood gang members, and by banning gang colors, this helps to eliminate gang violence. Other rules are they must wear a shirt, no sagging pants, no littering, etc.
The lease is powerful document, but they haven’t had to evict someone over rules-it just creates conversation for responsibility and respect within the community. Have a policy and be consistent with enforcement.
Another enforcement that works well is setting a curfew for the teens. Nine pm on weekdays and 10pm on weekends. Parents support it, and it keeps kids out of mischief and holds them accountable.
5. Deal with graffiti vandalism the same day. Graffiti signs or “tagging” shows other young people of tolerant, possible gang, behavior that exists there, and where tagging is used for boundaries of gangs.
Have a strict policy of same day graffiti removal by painting over it. Eventually they will stop doing it. The Atlanta Police Department has a database of known taggers and when busted, charges those taggers and holds them accountable of every property and every time they vandalized it with graffiti. It’s important to get large and small stuff- behind fences, on dumpsters, etc.
6. Befriend real estate neighbors. Your crime problems are often not isolated to your particular property. Talk to your neighbors- Who are they evicting? Share signage, stay on top of fencing, share security patrol, etc. Often neighborhood crime eventually dissipates if you stay on top of it. Take the problem and move it down the street. Keep pushing it out of your community, but make sure to keep it away from neighboring communities as well!
7. Work hand in hand with law enforcement. Local officers become your liason with residents. As a property manager, you know where the crime is, and what problems exist. You can help the police nab wanted people, and take them out of your community. With local police, they are often dispatching new officers into foot traffic, and with your inside knowledge, they can send beat police into your problem areas for free.
Take advantage of neighborhood crime prevention divisions and community resource officers. When and if your case goes to court, this shows the community cares and doesn’t tolerate crime.
An additional bonus is an officer will follow through with prosecution, allowing management to spend more time on the property and NOT in a courtroom.
8. Carefully review the lease agreement with leasors. Go over it and make sure it is understood by all residents, including the consequences.
9. No loitering. Don’t be tolerant of “hanging out”. Get to know who your residents are, their guests and who shouldn’t be there.
Enforce porch rules- no more than a certain number of people on a porch. Also, permission must be given to visit a resident. You should confront suspicious visitors and ask who they are visiting, which apartment number, etc. Only allow residents to hang out in common areas- pools, bbq, etc.- NOT stairs. For heavy traffic areas, consider installing a security system.
10. Hire off duty police for occasional enforcement. In this economy, we unfortunately can’t expect to get top notch service with normal 911 channels. With lay offs, not as many police are on duty. Another important factor to consider, most guard companies don’t have arrest powers. Sometimes you need a problem to be physically removed, and an off duty police officer can do just that.
Make sure these officers have worked intimately with communities before. “The officer needs to be assertive, fair and knowledgeable.”
Get to know the community problems (drugs, guns, prostitution, vehicle chop shops, etc.) and needs and remove them immediately.
A special thanks to Multifamilybiz.com for hosting this wonderful webinar.
If you have any security questions, please feel free to ask us at VinTech. We specialize in security for property managers, and can help walk through your property, identifying security concerns.