Crime Free Housing makes progress


By Lark Lewis

The Committee of the Whole provided the City Council with the benefits — increased landlord training and property improvements — that stemmed from Crime Free Housing.

The Committee of the Whole meeting was held at 5 p.m. Monday in the DeKalb Municipal building, 200 S. Fourth St. The Crime Free Housing Program is a program to keep illegal activity off rental property.

Carl Leoni, Crime Free Housing and Inspection coordinator, gave an update on program progress that showed overall improvement on landlord communication from 2012 to 2013. Leoni said the program has continued to grow as an active partnership between the DeKalb Police Department, landlords, property managers and tenants.

“Our goals remain the same as last year,” Leoni said. “We want to reduce crime, reduce the fear of crime, enhance the quality of life.”

Of the 8,460 rental units in DeKalb, the report stated 2013 saw 489 charges, which ranged from home invasions to underage consumption of alcohol. The top-ranking charges were domestic battery and disorderly house, which Leoni said Crime Free Housing is working to reduce with the DeKalb Police Department.

“Whenever there is a crime on a property, I get a hold of the landlords,” Leoni said. “The landlords have been very good with their responses.”

The 489 charges resulted in 57 evictions and 31 bans from properties. Leoni gave high praise to the program’s success, landlords and the implementation of landlord training.

“Training has been going well. This has been a very positive experience,” Leoni said. “For this, I have to thank the landlords.”

Leoni said he consulted with cities that reported negative backlash from landlords over training procedures, but Leoni said he has not encountered a negative comment from a local landlord. Training started off with 250 landlords who represent 5,000 units in DeKalb.

Crime Free Housing also made improvements to targeted properties that were mentioned in last year’s report. Some properties needed trash removed from their lots while others were a safety hazard and have been demolished. The department has also instituted three part-time property inspectors that are a start to what Leoni hopes will be a bigger inspector division.

DeKalb Police Chief Gene Lowery and Mayor John Rey said the council is delighted with Crime Free Housing’s improvements.

“Crime Free Housing is a success,” Lowery said while introducing the Police Department’s annual report at the meeting. “Everything factors into quality of life with rental properties.”

First ward Alderman David Jacobson brought up the issue of depreciating properties on Hillcrest, which Leoni said will be addressed in the near future. Leoni said some properties on Hillcrest need to be remodeled, sold or demolished.

“Personally I think [Leoni is] setting the standard of excellence,” Rey said. “I personally appreciate [your work] on behalf of City Council and the entire community.”