DeKALB – City of DeKalb leaders continue to examine the Crime Free Housing Bureau’s impact on crime in the city’s rental properties.
Crime Free Housing coordinator Carl Leoni delivered his annual report at the DeKalb City Council meeting Monday, where he touted the department’s successes and answered questions about the efficacy of the program.
The Crime Free Housing Bureau is tasked with working with landlords to fight crime in the city’s nearly 8,500 rental units and ensure the properties comply with city code. He said 99 percent of the city’s rental properties are registered with the city.
“I truly believe their interest is the same as our interest,” Leoni said of DeKalb landlords. “They want quality housing and they want safe housing for their tenants.”
Since it was established in February 2013, the bureau handled 381 cases that resulted in 489 charges filed for crimes such as disorderly house, domestic battery and alcohol violations.
After a charge is filed, Leoni notifies landlords, whose responses included 57 evictions, 31 people being barred from properties, 19 tenants voluntarily moving out to avoid future problems and landlords issuing 34 monetary fines with warnings the tenant could be evicted.
The bureau also contains three part-time inspectors who look for property maintenance issues. In the 16 weeks since inspectors have been on board, they’ve issued 67 warnings and six tickets, Leoni said.
Mayor John Rey applauded Leoni’s efforts, noting the relationships he’s built between the city and landlords.
“I think that bureau has shown that the safe, quality housing objective is foremost,” Rey said. “Landlords have appreciated the notifications. From the city standpoint, the city has appreciated the engagement and response from landlords. So, it’s been a very positive relationship.”
After sharing results from the program’s first full year, Leoni pointed to areas his bureau will continue to examine.
“With the few successes we’ve had, I foresee more in the future, but there’s a lot of work out there,” Leoni said.
The city should look at improving the Hillcrest neighborhood, not just combatting crime there, said 1st Ward Alderman David Jacobson. He pointed specifically to 829 Greenbrier Road, which is completely shuttered, and 809 Edgebrook Drive, which is close to being empty. Both were noted for having high call volumes before property owners started shutting them down for financial reasons.
“The more boarded up buildings and blight we have in these neighborhoods isn’t a good thing,” Jacobson said.
Leoni responded, “No, but buildings that don’t have the violence they once had are a good thing.”
Police Chief Gene Lowery echoed Leoni’s sentiment, saying it would be better for those buildings to be empty than to be crime-ridden.
“They’re not only places that breed crime, they’re places that are unfit to occupy,” Lowery said. “Those buildings, whether we like it or not, need to either be fixed or torn down.”