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(Here is an excerpt from some of Mr. Zehring's training curriculum)

Crime Prevention in Apartment Communities

Many people feel helpless against crime, because too often crime is seen as an inevitable part of our society. It has been said, “If a criminal WANTS to get you, he’ll get you!” This belief leads to helplessness, fear and apathy. Apathy is one of the most dangerous elements in society today. When law-abiding citizens refuse to go outside after dark, they have voluntarily turned over their neighborhoods to the ones perpetrating crimes.

Criminals Are Like Weeds

Many times rental property managers will not battle criminal activity on their rental property because they feel they cannot be successful. Often, people view dangerous criminals like a large rock that cannot be moved, or even be budged. But, dangerous criminals are NOT like rocks. In fact, they are more like weeds. Unlike an inanimate rock, a plant will grow. As a weed grows, it roots, it sprouts out and it chokes out healthy plants. A single weed can quickly overtake an entire garden. When criminal activity is allowed to flourish in apartment communities, the effect is the same.

The typical police approach to crime is REACTIVE. Once a crime has been committed, the police officer responds, writes a police report and begins the preliminary investigation. It is certainly more humane and cost effective to prevent a crime from even occurring. Crime Prevention is the PROACTIVE side of law enforcement. Crime Prevention is more desirable because is addresses the potential for crime before it becomes a serious problem.

Unfortunately, many people don’t address crime situations until it is too late. (A good example is the victim of a burglary who suddenly becomes interested in a home security system.)

Once a crime problem has gotten too large, it is often easier to run away than face it. Equate the crime problem to killing a dinosaur. The easiest way to kill a dinosaur is while it is in the egg. Once the dinosaur hatches, it will become larger and progressively harder to defeat. The same is true regarding criminal activity.

UNDERSTANDING CRIME PREVENTION

To prevent crime, you need to understand crime, and you need to understand the criminal mind. When you think of criminals, think of predators. Most criminals are like predators, looking for easy victims.

When you think of predators you might think of a lion. When the lion is hungry, she will go out to stalk her prey. The lion knows the watering hole is a good place to find food, as this is where all the animals come to get water. The lion is a skilled hunter. She knows the best approach is from downwind. This way she can smell the herd, but they cannot smell her. The lion is also careful to approach slowly, staying low in the tall grass to avoid detection.

At just the right moment, the lion pounces into the herd. The lion does not run past the injured, the diseased or slowest ones in favor of the strongest one at the lead of the pack. In fact, it usually is the one that is injured, sick or simply NOT PAYING ATTENTION that gets attacked. This is called survival of the fittest or thinning the herd.

The two-legged urban breed of predator, the criminal, works the same way. They stalk their victims, looking for the easy prey. To be successful against an attack, you don’t necessarily have to be the strongest one, but you don’t want to be the weakest!

Lions only hunt when they are hungry; but criminals are almost always on the prowl. This is why crime prevention is so important.

TARGET HARDENING

Sometimes you cannot remove a target. But you can harden the target. Target hardening involves the use of locks, electronic devices, or other hardware that will DETECT, DENY, DELAY or DETER the criminal (away from the intended target). Target hardening is directed to all structures, vehicles and personal property within the rental community.

  • DETECT: By utilizing good security techniques, you can cause the person to make more noise, which will increase the risk of detection. This may also persuade the person not to commit the crime.

  • DENY: By engraving valuables, using security electronic equipment, or by moving other valuables out of view, you can remove the rewards received from a crime opportunity. If the rewards are not there, this may persuade the person not to commit the crime.

  • DELAY: Many times crimes are committed because of an easy opportunity. By using good crime prevention techniques you can increase the time and effort needed to commit the crime. This may persuade the person not to commit the crime.

  • DETER: By utilizing the previous three techniques, you may prevent a crime from happening by deterring the criminal from the property to an easier target elsewhere.

C.P.T.E.D. In Apartment Communities

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (C.P.T.E.D.) is comprised of four (4) key elements: Surveillance, Access Control, Territoriality, and Activity Support. Virtually any property crime can be eliminated by using C.P.T.E.D.

IMPROVE SURVEILLANCE

SURVEILLANCE is the first element of C.P.T.E.D. Surveillance is the ability to look into an area, and the ability to look back out. It can be formal or informal. Formal surveillance is generally organized, while informal surveillance is naturally occurring.

NOTE: You should observe your property from all locations, keeping in mind whether you can see into and out of the property. Keep in mind that residents and staff are formal surveillance partners, and that neighbors or visitors to your property will conduct informal surveillance of your property. Remove anything that hinders surveillance. There are three types of surveillance to consider. Natural, Mechanical and Organized. The best plan will involve some combination of all three types of surveillance.

Natural Surveillance is naturally occurring. As people are moving around an area, they will be able to observe what is going on around them, provided the area is open and well-lighted. Natural Surveillance is typically free of cost, but observers may choose not to get involved in any situation that may pose a potential threat to themselves or others.

When considering surveillance of your property, remember that casual observers from neighboring properties might be willing to report suspicious activity. All you need to do is ask! It is a great idea to ask them to join your Block Watch meeting and safety socials.

Mechanical Surveillance employs the use of cameras, mirrors and other equipment that allows an individual to monitor a remote area. Mechanical surveillance usually involves the purchase of moderately inexpensive mirrors to the more expensive electronic devices, such as closed circuit television (CCTV).

NOTE: Once the equipment is purchased, maintenance of the devices must be considered.

Organized Surveillance includes security patrols and other people who are organized to watch a targeted area. While this is the most effective deterrent to crime, it is also the least cost effective. While it may be necessary to employ security patrols or off-duty police officers, once the patrols are discontinued there is generally nothing left to show for your investment.

IMPROVE ACCESS CONTROL

ACCESS CONTROL is the second element in C.P.T.E.D. Because many criminals look for an easy escape, limiting access into an area and back out again is a great way to deter criminal activity. Access Control can be demonstrated by having one way into and out of a location, such as a security post or the use of mechanical gates. Others, who use alternative methods to enter an area look suspicious, risk detection and sense an increased risk of apprehension.

It is important to assess how the intended users are entering the property. It is even more important to assess how the non-intended users are entering the property. Look at perimeter fencing for damage. Look for footprints in the dirt and gravel. Check for wear patterns in grassy areas. Determining the weak points will be the first step to correcting the problem.

There are three (3) types of Access Controls to considers: Natural (or Environmental), Mechanical and Organized.

Natural/Environmental Access Control involves the use of the environment. To keep trespassers from climbing over walls for instance, you could plant thorny bushes or a hearty cactus in the area where it will be highly visible. The use of dirt berms or large rocks can also keep unwanted visitors from entering onto private property and vacant lots.

Mechanical Access Control includes the use of security gates, which have proven very effective at reducing auto thefts, burglaries and drive-by shootings. Most perpetrators of these crimes do not want to exit the way they entered as it gives witnesses the opportunity to record license plates and get better suspect information.

Organized Access Control entails the use of security or courtesy patrol to monitor those entering the property. Distribution of parking permits, affixed to registered vehicles, will identify which vehicles belong to the residents. Vehicles should not be allowed to back into parking spaces, so that parking permits will be visible at all times.

IMPROVE TERRITORIALITY

TERRITORIALITY is the third element in C.P.T.E.D. Territoriality is a psychological impression that people get when they look at the property. If management displays good territoriality, it will influence the community to respect the property as well. Good territoriality demonstrates a sense of ownership, alerting potential offenders that they don’t belong there and they will be seen and reported, because undesirable behavior will not be tolerated. It has two (2) principle components: Defensible Space and Maintenance.

Defensible Space is divided into four (4) categories: Public, Semi-public, Semi-private, and Private.

  1. Public areas are typically the least defensible. A car driving on a public street would not automatically arouse suspicion.

  2. Semi-public areas might include a cul-de-sac. If there are only five homes in the circle, a driver would be expected to stop at one of the five homes or leave the area.

  3. Semi-private areas might include sidewalks or common areas around residential areas. While most people may not confront a stranger in a common area, they are likely to call the police if the person does not appear to belong there.

  4. Private areas are different in rental communities than in single-family home neighborhoods. In a typical apartment the private area may not begin until you actually enter into the unit. This is especially true if several units share a common balcony or stairways. In a single-family home neighborhood, many owners consider their front yard to be private, or defensible space.

There are many ways to establish defensible space. By planting low growing hedges or bushes, you will show a defined property line. By posting signs such as ”No Trespassing” or “No Soliciting”, you have established the area as defensible space.

Maintenance is another key issue for Territoriality. Properties that are clean and well maintained are more likely to attract residents who take pride in their community. This also promotes confidence in the management team.

IMPROVE ACTIVITY SUPPORT

ACTIVITY SUPPORT is the fourth element in C.P.T.E.D. This involves the appropriate use of recreational facilities and common areas. The objective is to fill the area with legitimate users so the abusers will leave.

It may be difficult to believe that filling an area with legitimate users will cause the deviant users, or abusers, to leave. But the opposite is also true. If you fill an area with deviant users, the legitimate users will withdraw.

To promote Activity Support, utilize common areas effectively. By incorporating ramadas, picnic areas and other amenities into open areas, the legitimate users will maintain ownership of the property.

In recreational areas, utilize proper lighting techniques and establish community rules to encourage the proper and safe use of the facilities. For laundry facilities, exercise and game rooms, maintain unobscured visibility for the intended users.

The following is one example of the Crime Free Lease Addendum.

Crime Free Lease Addendum

In consideration for the execution or renewal of a lease of the dwelling unit identified in the lease, Manager or Owner and Resident agree as follows:

Resident, any member(s) of the resident's household, a guest or any other persons affiliated with the resident, at or near the resident premises:

  1. Shall not engage in criminal activity, including drug-related criminal activity, on or near the said premises. "Drug related criminal activity" means the illegal manufacture, sale, distribution, use, or possession with intent to manufacture, sell, distribute, or use an illegal or controlled substance (as defined in Section 102 of the Controlled Substance Act [21 U.S.C.802]).

  2. Shall not engage in any act intended to facilitate criminal activity.

  3. Will not permit the dwelling unit to be used for, or to facilitate criminal activity.

  4. Shall not engage in the unlawful manufacturing, selling, using, storing, keeping, or giving of an illegal or controlled substance as defined in A.R.S. 13-3451, at any locations, whether on or near the dwelling unit premises.

  5. Shall not engage in any illegal activity, including but not limited to prostitution as defined in A.R.S. 13-3211, criminal street gang activity as defined in A.R.S. 13-105 and A.R.S. 13-2308, threatening or intimidating as prohibited in A.R.S.13-1202, assault as prohibited in A.R.S. 13-1203, including but not limited to the unlawful discharge of a weapon, on or near the dwelling unit premises, or any breach of the lease agreement that otherwise jeopardizes the health, safety, and welfare of the landlord, his agent, or other tenant, or involving imminent or actual serious property damage, as defined in A.R.S. 33-1368.

  6. VIOLATION OF THE ABOVE PROVISIONS SHALL BE A MATERIAL AND IRREPARABLE VIOLATION OF THE LEASE AND GOOD CAUSE FOR IMMEDIATE TERMINATION OF TENANCY. A single violation of any of the provisions of this added addendum shall be deemed a serious violation, and a material and irreparable non- compliance. It is understood that a single violation shall be good cause for immediate termination of the lease under A.R.S. 33-1377, as provided in A.R.S. 33-1368. Unless otherwise provided by law, proof of violation shall not require a criminal conviction, but shall be by a preponderance of the evidence.

  7. In case of conflict between the provisions of this addendum and any other provisions of the lease, the provisions of this addendum shall govern.

  8. This LEASE ADDENDUM is incorporated into the lease executed or renewed this day between Manager or Owner and Resident.

____________________________________ Date_________________
Resident Signature

____________________________________ Date_________________
Resident Signature

____________________________________ Date_________________
Property Manager's Signature

__________________________________________________
Name of Property

 

THE APPLICATION FORM

Management should have a set criterion or standards that they want the residents of their manufactured housing community to meet. The application form is their chance to gather information about their future residents. By making their application clear, concise and thorough, management will be able to make an informed decision and ensure that their criterion is being met.

It is imperative that management carefully reads the entire application before accepting it, making sure that every question is fully answered. If the applicant discloses information that does not meet their rental criteria the application should probably be denied.

After accepting the application their job is only half done. The application is of no use to management if they do not carefully screen or verify the information. Management should take the time themselves, or hire someone qualified to do a thorough screening and background check on all of the information received.

Suggested Criminal History Questions:

Management should have a keen interest in the people that want to live in their rental community. No one wants to live next door to a person with a violent or extensive criminal history.

As part of the application process management should ask the applicant, (and any other people who will be living in the home), about their criminal history. If they refuse to disclose this information to the management, they have the option not to rent to them.

It is recommended that management get as much detailed information as they can. To assist management in gathering this information, here are sample questions that may be asked on the application:

Have you, or any member of your household:

1. Ever been arrested, cited, prosecuted, plead guilty to, or been convicted of a crime?

2. Ever been placed on probation, parole, or any other release from jail, or prison?

3. Ever been or currently are a member of a gang?

4. Is there a current warrant for the applicant or any members of their household?

5. Are applicants or any members of their household currently involved in any criminal activity?

6. Ever been evicted or had a forcible detainer filed against you?

7. Ever moved to avoid eviction or because of problems with other tenants or a landlord?

Management should be sure the applicants explain all “Yes” answers in detail. At a minimum management should ask if the applicant or any person living in the home has ever been convicted of a crime. Management should inquire about all crimes, not just felonies. Many of the crimes that will cause management the most problems are not felonies. I do not recommend you discriminate against applicants based on an arrest. This is especially true if the charges were ultimately dropped.

Criminal Background Checks

Many credit reporting agencies will offer to search local or county court records for criminal data pertaining to their prospective tenants. While many of these companies make promising claims, the results they get may vary as greatly as the costs.

It is important to "shop around" for the best results, using a control group of names currently being processed. In most cases, management will see the best results from companies that use licensed private investigators, and search multiple courts and jurisdictions.

Material Falsification

In most states, material falsification of the information provided on the rental application, will allow the management to serve a notice to the resident, terminating the rental agreement.

If the residents claims the misinformation was an “honest mistake” but the corrected information they provide would have disqualified the applicant as well, the manager probably should proceed with the written notice.

If the corrected information would have allowed the resident to qualify, the manager should probably void the notice. Most states allow for an eviction against a resident who has given untrue or misleading information on the application pertaining to such things as:

  • Criminal records
  • Pets
  • Prior eviction records
  • Income of prospective resident
  • Current criminal activity
  • Social security number
  • Number of occupants in dwelling unit
  • Current employment

Refusing An Application

It is important that management keeps documentation for the applications that they have refused to approve. This documentation should be kept in the application file and retained for future use. Along with documentation, management must be consistent in following the defined criteria and standards they have set for their manufactured housing community.

Remember that the Fair Housing Laws do not say you have to turn your I.Q. back 30 points, nor do they require that you have to rent to everyone who applies. The Fair Housing Laws simply prohibit discrimination based on the applicable protected classes in your area.

  • UPDATE: COPY, PASTE AND SEE THIS LINK FOR AN IMPORTANT HUD PAPER: https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=HUD_OGCGuidAppFHAStandCR.pdf

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