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Moline approves Crime Free Residential Rental program

Moline approves Crime Free Residential Rental program

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Moline Police Chief Darren Gault

Moline is sending a message to landlords and tenants: You're not welcome in the city if you commit or allow crimes.

The city is in the process of implementing a Crime Free Residential Rental program aimed at weeding out tenants who commit crimes and landlords who allow criminal activity to go on without stopping it. 

City council members on Tuesday unanimously passed the Crime Free Residential Rental ordinance after a second reading. The program will exist as an initiative within the Neighborhood Stabilization and Revitalization plan.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, landlords who have a residential rental unit of more than one dwelling will be required to include an addendum in their lease agreement stating "certain criminal activity that is conducted, facilitated or permitted by a tenant, household member, guest or other party under control of the tenant, shall be deemed a violation of the lease."

Rental owners also must complete the city's Crime Free Housing seminar once every three years as a condition of renting in the city and renewing their registration.

The program was first discussed at length Feb. 11 during a committee of the whole work session after being recommended by Police Chief Darren Gault. Corporate Counsel Derke Price said the program was being used by many communities around the country. 

"The Crime Free Housing program is not without controversy," Price said, noting some communities have faced legal action "because the effects of some of these programs, depending on how they're written and how they're enforced are seen as unduly visiting burdens upon people of poverty and people of color."

Gault said the program was developed in Mesa, Arizona, in 1992. He said in Illinois alone, more than 50 communities use the program, which "aims to stabilize neighborhoods that have decreased property values, deteriorating homes or increased incidents of crime."

"I am proposing the Crime Free Multi-Housing program to target bad tenants and bad landlords in our community," Gault said. "The assumption is that all of our tenants are good tenants and that all of our landlords are good landlords. The data shows that is not always correct. We will be able to address those problems specifically through this program, supported by city ordinances.

"This is a nationally-utilized program designed to assist law enforcement agencies to significantly reduce levels of crime and nuisance calls from housing projects and large rental communities."

Gault showed council members a map with crime data of residential properties in the city from 2015 to 2019. The map showed crime "hot spots" lined up mostly with areas where rental properties are located. He said there were about 520 registered multi-family rental properties in Moline. 

The Crime Free Residential Rental program consists of three phases: Phase 1 is a mandatory seminar; Phase 2 is an on-site property inspection; and Phase 3 is a resident safety social event such as a barbecue in which a police officer is invited. Phases 2 and 3 are voluntary.

Gault said if landlords completed all three phases, they would be certified as a crime-free housing location with the city and allowed to display a plaque and market their property as crime free. 

The required seminar that rental owners or managing agents must attend will be free of charge, offered every month and presented by the Moline Police Department. Gault said different skill sets would be taught such as crime prevention theory, crime prevention through lighting and landscaping design, screening of residents, lease agreements and eviction issues.

"The core of this program is education," he said. 

Gault could not be reached for additional comment Thursday. 

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