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Crime Free Multi-Housing Program


Overview

Founding Member of the State of Illinois Crime Free Association & Member in Good Standing of the International Crime Free Program Association


Chronic drug dealing and other illegal activity can reduce a neighborhood to a mere shell of the healthy community it once was. When this happens, many residents look to the police or 'the system' for any possible solutions. The police and city government do have critical responsibilities, but these responsibilities should also be shared with the citizens of the community.


To address the crime problems in rental property requires a unique coalition of landlords, their employees, residents, and the police. The most effective way to deal with any illegal activity in rental property is through a coordinated effort. In most cases, current Village codes, Landlord/Tenant Law and criminal nuisance laws can easily be applied to meet these objectives.

CRIMINAL ACTIVITY IN RENTAL PROPERTY ACCOUNTS FOR:

- Radical decline in property values. - Fear and frustration for managers and other residents.
- High demand on police resources. - Animosity between neighbors and property managers.
- Property damage from residents’ abuse/police raids. - Increase in liability on part of manager and owners.
- Losses of rent during eviction and repair process. - Owners answering to criminal or civil abatement charges.

The Forest Park Crime Free Multi-Housing Program is designed to help owners and managers of rental properties in their efforts to keep drugs and other illegal activity off their property. The purpose of this program is not to SERVE the landlords, but to EDUCATE them and their residents to improve the livability of the neighborhoods by reducing crime.



This program is honest and direct, it is solution oriented, and is designed to be easy and very effective in reducing crime on rental properties. It has three key elements that will ensure the crime prevention goal:


  1. Management Training
  2. Premises Security Assessments
  3. Resident Training

Phase 1 of the program involves training the owner and property employees to become more effective in recognizing and reducing criminal activity. We will focus on these two facts: Effective property management can have a major impact on the health of a community and the quality of life. Secondly, there are accessible and legitimate techniques that can be used to stop the spread of drugs and illegal activity on rental property. Phase I certification may be transferable to other cities in the state it was issued, consult with the respective CFMH Coordinators.


The training will equip the property management employees with the necessary skills to prevent or spot problems before they occur, and to deal with problems before they become too dangerous or require police involvement. A basic premise of Community Based Police Programs is to develop partnerships and share the responsibility of preventing crime in the community. By doing so, we will be able to address the ROOT CAUSES of crime in rental property. This will result in less crime, fewer calls for police service, and more available time for officers to be proactive in fighting crime.


Some of the topics of the training program include the following:


CRIME PREVENTION STRATEGIES: These strategies are presented with the understanding that rental properties are a business. When the Police Department as "good business practice" can communicate crime prevention strategies, the property management recognizes the success gives them a marketing advantage.


PREPARING THE PROPERTY: It is relatively simple and inexpensive to manage the physical environment so it does not attract crime. If a property is run down, it says the management does not care about the property. Illegal activity may be prevented by modifying the behavior of an individual by using "safe by design" or Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (C.P.T.E.D.) concepts.


APPLICANT SCREENING: This is a reliable process when applied equally. The application process encourages "self-screening" on the part of the applicant. Many applicants have a history of eviction for drugs, illegal activity, or non-compliance. The program will teach how to acquire credit checks and background checks using local credit reporting agencies and sound management techniques. The implementation of the Crime Free Lease Addendum is the most effective "self-screening" tool offered by the program and is a mandatory requirement of the program for certification.


RENTAL AGREEMENTS: This is the best way to tell the residents about community rules and causes for eviction. The agreements will enforce a Crime Free Lease Addendum that is acceptable under the current landlord/tenant laws. Rental agreements are standardized and are enforced equally to all persons to avoid discrimination.


ONGOING MANAGEMENT: The techniques taught will help reduce the possibility of illegal activity. By conducting routine property inspections, the documentation of all violations and promoting an "apartment community," property managers will be better prepared to note illegal activity and to deal with it effectively.


RECOGNIZING ILLEGAL ACTIVITY: This not as easy as it sounds. There are many property managers who are unaware of the illegal activity that is occurring on their property. We will address how to identify what is suspicious and how to report it. Emphasis is given to gang and drug activity.


EVICTIONS: This is an effective way to deal with residents who are in non-compliance with the community rules or involved in illegal activity. While criminal cases require probable cause to arrest an offender, civil cases only need a preponderance of evidence to evict a resident engaging in criminal activity. The Landlord Tenant Act, (765 ILCS 705) supports the Crime Free Lease Addendum in the State of Illinois. The Crime Free Program requires the use of this addendum to discourage the criminally inclined person from the application process. Premises liability concerns are also clarified.

NOTE: Many people see drug dealers and other violent offenders as large rocks that cannot be moved. They are not like rocks. In fact, they are more like weeds. They grow, root, spread out and choke out healthy plants. The best way to kill a weed is to uproot it. Eviction serves that purpose.


BACKGROUND CHECKS: (as opposed to simple credit checks); These must be completed on all potential tenants and employees. This is done to identify convicted felons and certain convictions for misdemeanor crimes. A conviction includes a plea of guilty to a felony, a plea of no-contest to a felony, or a determination of guilt for a felony offense by a judge or jury, whether such conviction occurred in this state or not. For purposes of certification and signage, the minimum standard or policy is that more than 10 years must have elapsed since the date of the potential tenant's or employee's felony conviction or of their release from confinement imposed for that felony conviction, whichever is the later date. Potential tenants or employees with convictions such as homicide, child molestation, sexual assault, drug offenses other than mere possession, and any similar criminal offenses, whether they occurred in this state or not, should never be considered for tenancy or employment, regardless of the age of the conviction.


Misdemeanor convictions include but are not limited to any violent behavior, assault, disorderly conduct, gang related activities, weapons, children, drugs, prostitution or any crimes that might have put another in jeopardy of physical harm. Application questions should also include any and all juvenile occupants regarding any similar criminal activity as listed above, if the juvenile has been adjudicated a delinquent child by a juvenile court.


NOTE: Background checks are a requirement for certification. Program signage will not be granted to properties that knowingly employ or rent to persons convicted of serious offenses as described above. The property owner needs to "shop" around for a company that best meets the needs of the property regarding criminal background checking companies, commonly referred to as "tenant screening" companies. Learning the importance of maintaining hard copy documentation of these checks can help protect the landlord from future claims of discrimination.


WORKING WITH THE POLICE: This is confusing for some property managers. It is not well understood what they can expect from the police, or the difference between criminal and civil matters. Now we have the opportunity to explain the role of the police and their desire to help work with property management more effectively in the future. This should also greatly reduce calls for service on civil matters.


LIFE SAFETY AND FIRE PREVENTION: This includes information to significantly reduce fire and safety hazards. The issues addressed in this handout are directed towards maintaining safety requirements provided in the design and inspection process of construction. The Forest Park Fire Code and Village Code require many of the items addressed. Your insurance company may require items not required by this ordinance. Management is encouraged to maintain a log to show evidence of frequent property inspections.


All attendees must understand that no part of this training shall be regarded as legal advice or considered a replacement for a landlord's responsibility to be familiar with the law. The services of a competent attorney should be sought in any situation that has the potential to become adversarial between the property managers and residents.


Upon completion of this training program, the manager, or other attendees will be issued a certificate to be posted in their leasing office. This certificate will appeal to the honest renter who is looking for a safe place to live. They will have the comfort of knowing all applicants are carefully screened and criminal activity on the part of other residents will be dealt with through the eviction process. This will also discourage the dishonest renter from even applying, especially if they were evicted from another participating property.


Phase II of the program requires the landlord to meet the minimum-security requirements of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (C.P.T.E.D.). While our program does address their legal responsibility to provide units that meet habitability standards, the C.P.T.E.D. Security analysis of the property will call the landlord to a higher standard. In addition, the legal ramifications of not showing "good faith" in providing a safer environment are also discussed. We require the following upgrades whenever necessary:

  1. Single cylinder metal dead bolts on all single entry units (a metal 1-inch throw minimum.)
  2. Strike plates with 2-3 inch screws (where construction permits)
  3. Eye viewers in all front doors (180-190 degree viewers required with new construction)
  4. Adequate and uniform security lighting (Persons and vehicles should be distinguishable ethnicity/vehicle color @ 100 feet.)
  5. Proper trimming of bushes/trees*
  6. Anti-lift/slide devices on sliding windows and doors (exception may be taken with second floor units where no outside access is reasonably possible)
  7. The exterior and interior of all units are in compliance with all applicable state, and local health, safety, and nuisance laws and ordinances.

* Trees may need to have a 7-8 feet clearance from ground level and bushes must be trimmed to provide detection of criminals. (Height and width of landscaping may need reduction to prevent obstruction of light poles or building lighting fixtures.)


When an apartment community meets these security requirements, the management will receive a second certificate showing they have met the minimum-security requirements of the C.P.T.E.D. program. This certificate is to be displayed with the previous (completion of training) certificate in the leasing office (if applicable). These minimum-security requirements should appeal to the honest renter looking for a safe apartment in which to live. It will also show dishonest applicants the management is working with the police department. This should also reduce the possibility of crimes with proven crime prevention techniques of target hardening, resulting in a reduced number of calls for service. In addition to meeting the minimum standards the property owner will receive recommendations from the police department on how they may enhance their security standards based on a crime analysis and site survey.



Phase III of the Crime Free Program is only required for properties with 20 or more rental units and involves property management hosting a Safety Social Event for their residents. The police department trains the residents to be the eyes and ears for the apartment community by using proven Neighborhood Watch concepts. The police will also encourage residents to take responsibility for their own cars and rental units.


Crime prevention events are traditionally disappointing. It is required that the management provides incentives to attract the residents to the Safety Social Event. The event should utilize the three F's: FOOD, FUN and FREE of charge.


During this training, we will discuss several topics to help reduce crime and foster police goodwill. Topics that can be discussed may include but are not limited to the following:

- Responsibilities of Resident (witnessing/reporting incidents of crime) - Neighborhood Watch Principles
- Resident’s Rights - Auto Theft Prevention
- Burglary and Theft Prevention - Personal Safety Awareness
- Sexual Assault Prevention  

These programs have effectively reduced crime in residential areas and should be presented to residents living in rental property as well. This should help to reduce calls for service by preventing the rash of crimes at rental properties. When residents are encouraged to participate in the safety of the property with the understanding that management needs their cooperation, safe apartment communities can exist.


Upon completion of this training program, the management will be issued a third certificate to be posted in the leasing office. The three certificates should send a powerful message to desirable and undesirable applicants. The residents realize the police cannot be everywhere at once, but they will know that other residents and managers will be watching closely and working with the police.


Any rental community that has completed all three elements of this program, including implementation of the Crime Free Lease Addendum and credit and criminal background checks, will receive reports of all police incidents on their property through the Crime Free Housing Division upon request. This exchange facilitates the removal of criminally inclined residents, as well as non-compliant residents. The property management will also be permitted to display the program-authorized signs on their property that state:


These signs are purchased by the property management, but only after receiving a letter from a Forest Park Crime Free Housing Program Coordinator. To maintain the integrity of The Crime Free Program, there is a requirement of at least one "Safety Social" event with the residents annually to maintain certification. A new Gold certificate is awarded annually with the next year's expiration date. Participation in the Crime Free Multi-Housing Program fosters higher standards in customer service and in property operation.

The Crime Free Multi-Housing Program is currently active throughout the State of Illinois. The Phase I certificate is potentially transferable from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, confer with respective Coordinators. The rental industry has recognized the positive economic benefits. After extensive research around the country, there are no known programs that address the issues and concerns of rental property in the way the Crime Free Multi-Housing Program does. Other programs may be available on a sporadic basis, but are generally not offered free of charge to the public, and do not have the continued support of their police departments.


The Crime Free Program has been carefully developed and reviewed by police, community, and legal advisors. It is the program that has most effectively dealt with illegal activity in rental property, while providing the residents with the best protection against crime and violent criminals.


This program calls on management to make steps toward providing a clean and safe living environment for the citizens of Forest Park, by asking them to spend a little time and money to benefit their residents. This will also benefit the property managers as well, as they will have a safe and highly desirable rental property.


Note: When a town house or condominium community with a Home Owners Association is involved special consideration must be given to the codes, covenants, and restrictions (C.C. & R.'s) and the process to change the rules and regulations of the property. Ordinarily, this can be done by a majority vote of the Home Owner's Board. The additions or changes are typically designed to enhance or include crime prevention strategies that assist in managing all rental units in a fair and consistent manner.


The physical environment will be assessed during Phase II, regarding the minimum C.P.T.E.D. requirements. To address the interior of the units, the board mandates a new rule requiring the enhanced security items, such as eye viewers, longer strike plate screws, and window locks. This process can also ensure that enforcement of all the rules is done fairly and consistently regarding issuing of fines to the homeowners. This accountability by the board, homeowners, and all of the residents will provide a safer environment, lower calls for service by the police department, and increase your liability protection. Overall the Crime Free Program can impact property values in a positive way. The Home Owners Association is encouraged to have any changes to the rules reviewed by their Association legal representative before finalizing.


Private Property "No Trespass Agreement" Program
The Forest Park Police Department with the cooperation of private businesses and apartment building and condominium owners are implementing the Private Property "No Trespass Agreement" Program to reduce vandalism, gang-related activity, and loitering on private property. Download the application here. For more information, contact Det. Mike O'Connor at 708-615-6254.


Obtaining a Copy of a Police Report
Property owners and managers can obtain a copy of the police report for an incident that occurred on their property. Either come into the Forest Park Police Department to fill out a Freedom of Information form or click here to download the form. Fill out the form and return it to the Forest Park Police Department.

Not all reports qualify for release. Arrests not yet adjudicated are not released. Cases actively being investigated are not released. Juvenile information is not released. Personal information of an intimate nature is not released.


Crime Free Housing Links

Crime Free / Nuisance Abatement Ordinance
Fair Housing Regulations
Lease Addendum
The International Crime Free Association

For more information on the Crime Free Programs, please contact:
Michael O'Connor
Crime Free Housing Division
Forest Park Police Department
517 Desplaines
Forest Park, Illinois 60130
Office Phone: (708) 615-6254
FAX: (708) 366-0565
Email: moconnor@forestpark.net
http://forestparkpolice.net/cfmh.html