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County police targets crime at rental housing

By Kevin Lavery, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – Some St. Louis area landlords are learning how to better fend off crime through a program sponsored by the St. Louis County Police.

County police are training property managers in a drug and criminal activity reduction program now in use in 900 cities worldwide. Much of the focus is on keeping good records of renters and training staff to watch for suspicious acts.

"This program is going to help involve the entire staff, whether it's the strike plates on a door or verifying information on an application," said Carole Ballard, president of the St. Louis Apartment Association. She says the program goes well beyond owners and managers.

The program covers such points as applicant screening criteria, good record keeping and how to identify drug use.

Lieutenant Troy Doyle says police are trying to get landlords to, among other things, change their lease agreements to handle nuisances more efficiently. "When we get called for an assault, normally we make an arrest and the guy is taken to jail, but in less than 20 hours he's back out living in the community," Doyle said.

"What we're asking the managers to do is to put that in your lease agreement, that if you assault someone on a property, then you're subject to eviction.

"Displacement, of course, works a lot better than the arrest."

Doyle says one goal of the program is to teach managers how to work out disputes on their own to reduce the frequency of police dispatches to their properties.

The next phase of the program involves certifying that rental properties have met minimum safety requirements.

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