In these tumultuous times of uncertainty and financial instability, one thing is certain: crime rates rise as the employment rate and markets fall. However, there is much you can do to create safe, secure, and happy communities. Common sense, best practices, and new technology can go far in insuring both the real safety of your residents and their perception of how safe they are.
It Takes a Village (or at least a few neighbors)
It may be surprising that the most effective crime-prevention measures are the least expensive but pay the greatest dividends. There is simply no substitute for caring neighbors who watch out for each other and pay attention to who is coming and going. In communities where the common areas are well-utilized and maintained, residents simply have a better sense of who is a resident or guest and who is a stranger. While you can’t really train people to care, you can train caring people.
One such program is the Crime-Fee Condominium Program detailed at the Crime Free Association website (www.crime-free-association.org). The Crime Free Association is a non-profit organization supporting residents, property managers, and renters who want to fight back against crime. The program detailed in their literature requires special training, background checks on tenants, communication with the local police department, posting of signs and certificates, and other measures. A key element of the program includes the Crime-Free Lease Addendum. This addition to the standard rental or lease agreement was developed by the federal government’s Housing and Urban Development (HUD) department and upheld by the Supreme Court. As described by Sgt. John Nebl of the Schaumberg Police Department in Illinois, and a consultant to the Crime Free Association, the lease addendum stipulates that any criminal activity by residents, guests of residents, or subtenants is in violation of the lease and may be grounds for eviction. This is important, Sgt. Nebl points out, because while the standardlease agreement covers the usual grounds for eviction (failure to pay rent, vandalism, etc.), it does not count criminal activity as a violation of the lease agreement.
While these measures may require significant time investment and community building, the financial outlay is much less than the potentially thousands of dollars needed to invest in the technology discussed later in this article.
A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
Clean, well-lit, and properly maintained lobbies, recreation rooms, parking lots and walkways help prevent unwanted activity, or as Nebl describes it, make “the physical property less inviting to criminals and criminal activity.” According to Nebl, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is an important element of the Crime-Free Program. The standards included in CPTED include bright but even lighting both inside and out; deadbolts with three inch screws on doors; peepholes; anti-lift, anti-slide patio features on doors and ground story windows; and proper landscaping.