Apartment Safety in Dallas

Now that the City Council Committees are underway, I’ve been checking out the briefings with a particular focus on those related to Public Safety.

Apartment complex crime is a major issue. To me, it’s the number one reason our crime rate is so high. In many cases, out-of-state (and out-of-country) landlords are to blame.

The DPD gets blamed for having a high crime rate and for not being everywhere all of the time, but there’s a flip side to that coin. The other side of that argument, which to me is more relevant, is that large apartment operators are making “grand theft money” by not hiring real security patrols.

Shocking stats after the jump.

Owners of large complexes need to step it up with respect to their security. Many of the apartment developers, especially in the southern sector, are getting by using something called a “courtesy officer.” A courtesy officer is someone that is usually in their own apartment and comes out only if someone makes a phone call.

Most of these courtesy officers don’t drive around and they don’t walk and patrol the property. It’s a marketing tool to make potential renters feel safe while providing zilch in the process. When you need a place to stay and you hear the words “we have courtesy officers on the property,” it gives you a warm fuzzy feeling as you commit the next 12+ months of your life to a complex while unwittingly putting your family’s safety in jeopardy.

According to the most recent briefings, an astonishing 41% of Dallas’ auto thefts occur in apartment complexes. Compare that to 16% at residences and 17% on public streets. When you have the third highest auto theft rate among major cities (population of 1 million+) that’s a major factor (link).

Apartments also make up 31% of the BMV (Burglary of Motor Vehicle) numbers. Compare that to 1% for shopping malls, 12% for residences, and 17% for public streets (link).

If the City requires clubs to hire x amount of security guards per x hundred square feet of space when they get specific use permits (SUPs), then large apartment operators should be held to the same standard. It’s only fair.

Most apartment crime can be prevented by having a visible security patrol. A lot of crimes in complexes are attributed to hanging out in breezeways and parking lots for hours on end; this is explicitly prohibited in most standard apartment leases. Such minor things go unchecked and it becomes dangerous over time.

People may get mad for me telling it like it is but know I’m telling the truth. This is how it goes down:

A lot of times a group of thugs knows one person in a complex and he/she brings a bunch of friends to turn your parking lot into a party zone. People hang out (usually 25 or under). They often drink and some use drugs. They block traffic and throw footballs around in the street. They all hang around while one of them fixes a car.

They clog up breezeways and turn up their car stereos to 10 and sit around with their cars idling and headlights on so they can keep the party going past dark. One of these degenerates objects to having to move so people that pay rent to live there can get to their home. A fight jumps off which often results in the person who pays rent to live there getting hurt. Another statistic. Or this group hits somebody’s car with a football and dents the hood, but when the person who pays rent to live there comes out to find the culprit nobody knows what happened.

Or, people who hang out are watching your every move so they can break into your car or outright steal your vehicle.

Violence also occurs because your complex having the rep as being “the spot to hang out” or a place to score drugs will attract rival groups of thugs which will turn your complex into a free-fire zone or a multifamily fight-fest on the regular. Through August 2007, 31 murders have occurred in apartments and 23 have occurred in their parking lots (38% of the total). More info on murders is here.

There are lots of easy targets because apartments are often populated by single females and young families. And the thugs know it. Now how in the world is any of this the fault of the Dallas Police Department?

The crime rate will remain steady unless the City starts to require large apartment complexes to have visible, active, on-the-ground patrols (not “courtesy patrols”) in their complexes and enforces that requirement. If not, expect more of the same.

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