The Crime Free Multi-Housing is successful because it approaches crime on many fronts. The police cannot solve crime problems alone. Neither can the management or residents of rental properties. However, by working together, the end result has been the most successful approach to crimes in rental communities. This is an example of “Community Oriented Policing”, whereby the police and community members work together to solve mutual problems. The Murrieta Police Department embraces this philosophy and actively works to serve and partner with the community.
There are three ways criminal activity comes into a rental community:
1. The criminal lives there
2. The criminal visits friends there
3. The criminal comes to the property to commit crimes
The Crime Free Multi-Housing program addresses all three of these possibilities. By not renting to people with criminal intent, they not only reduce the likelihood of crime in the community, they also reduce the number of visitors who come to the property with criminal intent (i.e., to purchase or sell drugs).
For the opportunistic criminal, the use of C.P.T.E.D. (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) has been used to combat crimes that might occur in the parking lots or common areas. This includes assaults, robberies, drive-by shootings, and auto thefts.
Rental properties present a unique challenge for law enforcement. The typical Neighborhood Watch approach to residents in single family homes is not easily adapted to rental communities. In single family homes, owners generally have a large cash investment in the purchase of their home. This motivates owners to a greater concern about crime in their neighborhoods. With rising crime rates come lower property values.
An owner of a single family home might also be looking at a long term of residency. Typically, homeowners have a thirty-year mortgage for their property. Home is where they come to and from each day and perhaps raise a family. There tends to be a lot of pride and ownership of their property. When crime problems begin to appear, owners are very likely to organize Neighborhood Watch activities to protect the long-term interests of their families.
In rental properties, the communities tend to be much more transient. Most often, residents sign a six-month, nine-month, or a twelve-month lease for a rental property. In many cases, owners don’t even require leases, and residency is based on a month-to-month agreement. This allows for an occupant to move very easily if they feel crime has reached a level they will not tolerate. It is easier to move away from crime than to confront it.
Traditionally, Neighborhood Watch in multi-family rental properties is not effective because of the transitory population in the apartment complexes who rent for relatively a short duration of time and move again. In 1999, the City of Murrieta was faced with the planning and future construction of new apartment complexes. Nearby homeowners to the apartment developments want assurances from the City of Murrieta that the apartments are not going to “breed crime” devaluate their homes and neighborhoods. The Murrieta Police Department developed a new concept for crime prevention in the rental communities to proactively combat the perception that they will cause the crime rate to escalate.
The result was the Crime Free Multi-Housing program first implemented by Mesa, Arizona in July of 1992. This bold, new program had no precedent. The program’s concept was to take a multi-faceted approach to crime prevention. A unique coalition of police, property managers and residents of rental properties, the program was to be an on-going program with a three-phase approach to address all of the opportunities of crime in rental property.
The program was designed to include a certification process, never before offered by a police department. The incentives of police issued signs, certificates, and advertising privileges provided immediate interest in the program.
The development of the Crime Free Lease Addendum proved to be the backbone of the Crime Free Multi-Housing program. This addendum to the lease agreement lists specific criminal acts that, if committed on the property, will result in the immediate termination of the resident’s lease.
In nearby cities which have implemented the Crime Free Multi-Housing program, those cities have achieved almost instant success. In rental properties with the highest crime rates, the immediate results showed up to a 90% reduction in police calls for service. Even in the best properties reductions of 15% to 20% were not uncommon.
The Crime Free Multi-Housing program began to spread nationally after the first year, and internationally after the second year. The Crime Free Multi-Housing program has been a success all across the United States and Canada.
If the police, property managers and residents will make a dedicated effort to crime prevention and the Crime Free Multi-Housing program, the outlook for success is extremely high. Good luck as your efforts assist in keeping Murrieta “the safest city in Riverside County” for many years to come.
If you are the owner or manager of a multi-family dwelling unit within the City of Murrieta and you are interested in joining the Crime Free Multi-Housing Program, please call our coordinator.
Sergeant Scott Montez