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Apartments earn crime-free designation

Casa de Cortez Apartments, a 32-unit complex located off De Luz Road in Fallbrook, has been honored for becoming a member of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Crime Free Multi-Housing Program.

On January 31, Sgt. Joe Montion and John McLelland, crime prevention specialist, dedicated the complex with formal signage representing the completion of their requirements.

The program is a powerful tool in helping prevent illegal activity in rental housing and promoting safety among its tenants.

“It feels great to be a part of the Crime Free Multi-Housing Program,” said Louise Bridges, project manager for Cortez Property Management. “It makes my job easier, because I have the Sheriff’s Department backing me up, as well as HUD [Department of Housing and Urban Development], to cover any difficult situations that may sometimes come up.”

From start to finish, it took two months for the Casa de Cortez Apartments to earn its crime-free designation.

In order to obtain the designation, explained McLelland, the landlord and/or property manager must attend an eight-hour training seminar.

Attendees are schooled in law enforcement issues, local drug issues, gang awareness, renter application procedures and necessary measures in making an apartment complex more secure.

“Our on-site manager, Manuel Vega, and I both attended this class,” said Bridges.

At an advantage, both Vega and Bridges were familiar with the material since they were already abiding by HUD regulations.

“What I did learn was what to look for with drug and gang activity, since I had never been exposed to that,” said Bridges.

Following Crime Free Multi-Housing protocol, McLelland inspected the property, addressing the areas which would require improvement.

“The property needs to meet some certain minimum requirements,” he said.

For example, apartment doors must have deadbolt locks, windows must be tamper-resistant and good exterior lighting should be present.

These alterations to the property are intended to deter the criminal element from living or loitering on the property.

“The changes that we had to make were subtle ones like adding additional lighting and cutting down landscaping that got too tall,” said Bridges. “And it was great working with John McLelland because he was so upbeat.”

Another critical piece of the program is the Crime Free Lease Addendum. Every renter is required to sign one.

“With the Crime Free Lease Addendum, tenants understand that any criminal activity committed by them or their guests can be grounds for immediate termination of their rental agreement,” said McLelland.

The eviction, added McLelland, is not based on a legal conviction but solely on the preponderance of evidence.

The lease addendum has the power to weed out the criminal element. “This program gives tenants a feeling of security in a safe environment,” said McLelland.

Being part of a crime-free program is a true team effort. Tenants are involved and strongly encouraged to report any suspicious activity to the Sheriff’s Department in order to promote safety for themselves, their families and their neighbors.

McLelland remains a strong advocate of this program because of the positive results.

“It deters criminal activity from occurring and is a solid hammer to react to an incident if it does happen.” he said. “And when crime loses, everyone benefits.”

The Sheriff’s Department’s Crime-Free Multi-Housing Program is the only program of its kind in the Fallbrook area.

For more information on this valuable tool for property managers and owners, contact John McLelland at (760) 451-3124.

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