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Help offered to lower crime in apartment complexes

Property owners and managers of multi-unit complexes in Fallbrook are being contacted by mail this week and encouraged to participate in the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department’s Crime-Free Multi-Housing program.

“The purpose of getting landlords involved in this program is to keep illegal activity out of rental properties,” said John McLelland, crime prevention specialist for the Fallbrook Sheriff’s Substation. “When criminals live at a property, other criminals visit them there and crimes are committed there.”

McLelland said problems with gang activity, drugs, graffiti and vehicle burglaries in apartment complexes are addressed in the free, specialized program.

A variety of steps are involved in helping a rental complex become “crime-free.” The physical security of each complex is examined and managers are trained in how to effectively screen tenants and, when necessary, handle evictions properly.

“We have an attorney provide information on making rental agreements and leases a power tool for the owner and manager, proper screening of applicants and the eviction process,” McLelland said.

McLelland said with the population growth Fallbrook has experienced, criminal activity has also increased. Calls for service to the Sheriff’s Department were 12,821 in 2006 and in 2007 increased to 13,212.

“We are just trying to bring a sense of security and stability to our rental complexes in Fallbrook,” said McLelland, who has run the program since 2002. “When unattended, crime problems just fester and develop further.”

McLelland also mentioned that it is common to find significant numbers of children in local apartment complexes; he worries about the impact on them when crime occurs.

“The problem with kids growing up in bad <apartment> complexes is that they grow up thinking that type of activity is normal,” McLelland said.

Involvement in the Crime-Free Multi-Housing program begins with property owners and/or managers attending a one-day training seminar. The next one will be offered on November 19. The seminar is not open to the general public. Admission can be arranged through McLelland by calling (760) 451-3124.

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