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Police push crime-free housing program

Crime prevention program introduced to make rental properties safer

By: Amy Crofts

  |  Posted: Saturday, Dec 07, 2013 06:00 am

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Well lit parking lots, deadbolts and hallways free of shadow, are just a fraction of crime prevention techniques many of us take for granted in our homes.

These are just some of the safety features built into St. Albert’s newest affordable housing project, Big Lake Pointe.

“One of our tenants says she feels very safe going from the parking lot to the building and into her apartment with her young daughter because of the features that are built in,” said Doris Vandersteen, director of the St. Albert Affordable Housing Society.

“There is good lighting, clear visible space and security access to get into the building as well as her own suite.”

The 118-unit building for low to moderate-income individuals and families is paving the way for Crime Free Multi-Housing certification in the city. This is a program whereby landlords work with tenants to prevent criminal activity.

Through education, getting-to-know-your-neighbour socials, and nine physical safety features – including steel door frames, anti-slide windows and 180 degree peep-holes – St. Albert RCMP want every apartment building and condominium in the city to be certified.

They are however meeting resistance to the idea.

“St. Albert should reach the point now that we’re looking to the future, we’re being pro-active,” said Sgt. Carolyn Cameron, operations support with St. Albert RCMP.

She explained owners of the city’s older apartment buildings as well as new developers have been reluctant to participate in the program because of the cost.

The City of Edmonton adopted the Crime Free Multi-Housing program in 2001, modeled after similar programs in B.C. and Ontario. The Edmonton Police Service (EPS) found the cost to retrofit an outdated suite is $350, while crime prevention measures would be 0.5 per cent of the cost for new buildings.

“Crime is low in St. Albert, but that’s not to say that we shouldn’t have Crime Free Multi-Housing,” added Cameron.

“If you think about how criminals work – (they’ve) been kicked out of apartments because other cities are doing this – then where are (they) going to end up?”

In the last year-and-a-half, Stony Plain and Spruce Grove have adopted the program.

The certification process not only involves environmental design, such as adequate lighting of common areas and landscaping, it also requires property managers be certified and be responsible for maintaining the building’s crime-free status.

Const. Reid Nichol with Edmonton Police, said the benefits of the program outweigh the costs.

“I think the investment is definitely worth it. What the program is able to do is increase the accountability of tenants and it also increases the accountability on management to run good, safe sites,” he said.

Benefits of the Crime Free Multi-Housing program listed on the EPS website include a stable, more satisfied resident base; increased demand for rental units; lower maintenance and repair costs and increased property values.

Nichol also noted a significant decrease in police service calls to properties that became certified.

From 2008 to 2009, a rental property in Edmonton’s west end saw a marked decline in seven call categories including: 85 per cent decrease in assault and robbery, 78 per cent drop in disturbance and noise calls, 73 per cent reduction in property crime (mischief, break and enter, theft from and of vehicles) and weapons complaints were down 50 per cent.

Safety socials

Changes to environmental design are only one aspect of crime prevention. The other side is building community.

“I would love to see the new apartments built to spec to meet the nine (mandatory components) and I would also love to see building community with our older ones,” Cameron said.

Sturgeon Point Villas, also known as the Rivercrest apartments, are a good example.

Since the implementation of block parties, food baskets and cultural kitchen nights at the St. Albert Food Bank, calls for service to the apartment complex have dropped from 155 in 2012 – mainly noise complaints – to 109 projected for 2013.

“Crime prevention is not just a police problem,” said Angie Dedrick, neighbourhood development co-ordinator with Family & Community Support Services. “We want the community to be part of the solution.”

Dedrick said the “safety socials” which are a mandatory component of the Crime Free Multi-Housing certification, get people out of their apartments and talking to their neighbours.

“We empower tenants to take a stand and really care about the homes that they live in,” added Nichol.

Property managers and condo board members of multi-family dwellings can attend a Crime Free Multi-Housing information night at Maloney Place, 96 Bellerose Dr. on Jan. 21.

To RSVP or for more information contact Angie Dedrick at 780-418-6055 ext. 3086 or adedrick@st-albert.net. Space is limited.


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