By Amy Wenk
The 76 apartment complexes of Sandy Springs are prone to burglaries and car-related thefts because such crimes are “easy for the bad guy,” said Senior Officer Larry Jacobs, head of the crime prevention division.
“Apartment complexes tend to have a higher rate of crime just because the concentration of people living there,” Jacobs said. The many tenants and shared parking present more opportunities than single-family homes.
To combat the problem, the Police Department has implemented a Crime Free Multi-Housing program, which was developed by the Mesa, Ariz., police in 1992.
The program is similar to Neighborhood Watch programs for homes and businesses but urges apartment management and property owners to get involved instead of tenants.
“It’s hard to get a Neighborhood Watch program going” at apartments because of the lack of long-term residents, Jacobs said. “The problem is people move in and out … and then (the program) kind of loses steam.”
The Crime Free Multi-Housing program consists of three phases completed under the supervision of local law enforcement. Participants receive certification for each level completed, and the apartment complex is certified after all phases are complete.
“The overall goal … is to let the bad guy know they are not wanted here in Sandy Springs,” Jacobs said.
Phase 1 provides property managers eight hours of instruction on ways to deter criminals from apartments. Topics include crime prevention theory, the benefits of resident screening, master key use, security management, and drug and gang prevention.
Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles also are emphasized during the training. Those principles use the environment to help curb crime.
“We are talking about outdoor lighting,” said Jacobs, noting the police do lighting surveys. “We also have them do things like trim bushes below the windows so people can see out, and there are less places for people to hide.”
Another program tool is a lease addendum that allows property managers to evict tenants engaging in criminal activity.
“If you have somebody that is a troublemaker that’s constantly getting arrested … it usually leads to more problems,” Jacobs said. “On a big scale, the more complexes we get involved kicking these people out and cleaning up, the less places these people are going to have to rent in Sandy Springs.”
Phase 2 involves a police survey of the property. Phase 3 involves community awareness training by property management and police.
Overall, the multihousing program aims to reduce 911 calls, stabilize the resident base and improve citizen safety. Over time, apartments could see increased demand for rental units and higher property values.
“The more people we can get involved watching each other and watching everything going on around them, the more they can help us fight crime,” Jacobs said.
For more information, e-mail Jacobs at firstname.lastname@example.org.