Budgetary concerns have so far kept the village from implementing what sounds like a worthwhile program aimed at reducing crime through tougher regulation of rental properties. It was back in early 2008 that the mayor and the police chief introduced Forest Park to a housing program first developed in Mesa, Ariz. The idea is to give landlords the tools to evict troublesome tenants while the municipality keeps a closer eye on how those landlords manage their properties.
It’s called the Crime Free Multi-Housing Program, and in our opinion the sooner village hall can get it rolling the better.
Right now, there is money in the police department’s budget to hire an officer whose full-time job would be to run the program. Chief Jim Ryan would like to promote someone from within the department to this position, and has asked for applications. For reasons that aren’t clear to us, the post remains vacant. Meanwhile, a series of local ordinances, internal policies and training programs are yet to be developed. The sluggish start is a little disappointing, but hopefully village officials are using the time to consider a mountain of logistical matters that will need to be addressed for this to work.
First and foremost, we would encourage Village Administrator Tim Gillian to grab this bull by the horns and make it a priority. For such a vast and comprehensive program to work, it will require input and cooperation across several departments. Gillian is the only person who can orchestrate that effort.
Though this program was developed to reduce crime, it most certainly involves the building department, legal expertise, and input on matters of fire and life safety. To even begin working with property owners in town, Forest Park must first produce a list of all the rental properties to which these regulations would apply. Can anyone at village hall print that document today? In all likelihood, this program would reveal some underlying problems in both the enforcement and regulation of residential properties. That’s OK. It is better to have a full understanding of how many illegal apartments actually exist, or why certain building and zoning codes may not be appropriate. One of the challenges in making this work will be addressing those matters and fixing inequities when they’re discovered. Pro-actively reducing crime is the primary goal here, but there are important ancillary benefits to be realized as well.
Whoever is chosen to be the face of this new program cannot be left to singularly wander in and out of apartment buildings. Accurate information and logistical support from village hall will be critical. That said, the police chief needs to find an officer who is both an extremely gracious people person, but is comfortable playing the enforcer.
This job won’t be easy, and local government is likely to ruffle a few feathers when it decides to aggressively look over the shoulders of property owners. That’s all the more reason to be sure of the details.