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posted: 5/22/2013 12:01 AM

Batavia police: Crime-free rental housing project working

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Calls for police service to Batavia's eight largest apartment complexes have mostly decreased in the year the city has tested a crime-free housing initiative.

Detective Kevin Bretz, who supervises the program, reviewed the 2011 and 2012 data with the city council's joint committees' meeting Tuesday night.

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The pilot ends in December. It requires licensing of managers of rental properties that have 10 or more units. Managers have to attend training that covers illegal activity, applicant screening, designing for safety, community rules and more.

The program was approved in September 2011 and began in January 2012.

In 2008, the largest complex, Batavia Apartments, had 764 calls for service. That went down to 466 in 2011 but ticked back up to 587 in 2012. Bretz said the 2012 increase was due to increased patrols at the complex, with officers keeping an eye out for suspicious people and suspicious activity.

Officers are walking through buildings up to three times a day or patrolling by vehicle. They also started issuing more trespassing notices.

"We don't see the problems that we have had in the past," Bretz said. He recalled that he started with Batavia as a police officer in 1988 at the "tail end of the wildness," so much so that a squad car was stationed there on Friday and Saturday nights "and never left the lot."

Green Meadows dropped from 193 to 109 from 2008 through 2012.

"A lot of these managers are taking additional steps to screen their applicants," Bretz said.

He estimated that about 2,532 people live in the eight complexes.

For the three largest complexes -- Batavia Apartments, Lorlyn and Green Meadows -- about 62 percent of the service calls are for checking suspicious vehicles or activity and well-being checks. Domestic disturbances are the next highest, followed by noise complaints and battery.

Bretz had high praise for the management that took over Batavia Apartments in 2008. He talked about how with all the managers, he is in contact within a day any time police are sent to the complex, even if it is for something like accompanying paramedics.

Bretz will present final numbers at the end of the test period.

Whether to then continue or expand the program is up to the city council, Police Chief Gary Schira said.

"We have some single-family rental properties that are every bit a concern for us as the bigger complexes," he said. But he doesn't know how many single-family rentals there may be. "I don't know if we could absorb that" with current staffing levels, Schira said. Alderman Susan Stark had asked about the cost of the program.

Alderman Michael O'Brien said the value goes beyond cost.

"It also adds to the quality of life for the majority of residents in these apartment buildings," he said.

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