A proposal to bring tighter regulations and more oversight to rental properties in Forest Park has been shelved while the police department works to restore its staffing levels, according to village officials.
The plan to pull an officer from his or her patrolling duties so that they can dedicate their time to working with landlords and tenants requires that the department be able to slide a new officer into that vacated patrol post, said Police Chief Jim Ryan. At the moment, he doesn’t have the manpower. Ryan said he hopes to hire an additional two police officers in the coming weeks, but those recruits would then be required to complete at least 400 hours – 10 weeks – of training with the Illinois State Police Academy.
“In the meantime, we’re on hold,” Ryan said of the push to introduce a new policing program in Forest Park. “In the meantime, we’re waiting.”
The Crime Free Multi-Housing Program seeks to work with landlords in screening prospective tenants, improving security on the property and evicting renters who commit crimes. It was first developed in Mesa, Ariz., in 1992 and today is used in 44 states. A key component of the program is mandated participation by landlords, which would be enforced when local government approves an ordinance to that effect.
Village commissioners approved $76,500 in funding for the position earlier this year, but have not taken any other steps to enact the program.
“At the moment it is a staffing issue,” Mayor Anthony Calderone said of the delay.
The council would need to adopt only a single ordinance, and based on discussions of the program during budget hearings earlier this year, there should be enough support to do so. Calderone said he expects the police chief will continue preparations to implement the program in anticipation of an ordinance being adopted.
According to both the mayor and police chief, it will be at least two or three months before the Crime Free Multi-Housing Program appears on the council’s agenda. There is no firm timeline for implementing the program.
“I know the residents want us to do something about a lot of these multi-family houses,” Ryan said.
In June, when the mayor pushed to fund the position, he and the chief said that many of the calls officers respond to involve rental properties. No statistics were provided to the council in support of that claim, but Calderone said he expects Ryan will be able to demonstrate as much when the matter comes back for adoption. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 45 percent of Forest Park’s housing stock consists of rental properties.
Reaction to the proposal from property owners in the village has been mixed. However, neither Calderone nor Ryan said they’ve received any feedback in recent months, likely because the program has been temporarily shelved.
Schaumburg was the first city in the state to adopt the Crime Free program and during the first two years authorities responded to 12 percent fewer calls originating from rental units, according to a department sergeant. That city has expanded the program to include single-unit properties and never has the police department had to revoke a property owner’s license for noncompliance, the sergeant said.