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Crime/Courts

April 29, 2013

New Crime Free program changing atmosphere of city apt. complexes

NORMAN — A new crime-fighting program sponsored by the Norman Police Department is giving apartment and rental managers a new tool to deal with crime and increase personal safety of tenants.

Crime Free Norman is described on its website as a “state-of-the-art, crime prevention program designed to reduce crime, drugs and gangs on apartment properties.” Several Norman apartment complexes are working toward becoming certified in the program.

The three-phase program is law-enforcement sponsored and partners with property managers and landlords. At the heart of the program is a lease addendum that new or renewing tenants sign acknowledging that management can evict them with 24-hour notice if there are signs of drugs, prostitution, assault or other criminal behavior.

“It’s an amazing program that’s had a huge, positive effect on our complex,” said Cynthia Richmond, manager of Vicksburg Village in southeast Norman, a HUD Section 8, low-income apartment complex. Richmond said 100 percent of her tenants have signed the lease addendum.

The program launched in Norman in October 2012 on a yearlong trial basis, said Capt. Tom Easley, NPD spokesman.

“It was aimed at providing (apartment managers) with a lot of information about what’s required and also gives them information about environmental design and how to reduce crime by engineering your property correctly,” Easley said, who noted that possession of drug paraphernalia is a crime.

“It’s how do you write your leases,” he said, about the 24-hour eviction notices. “If a tenant has signed off on it, then it’s covered. It’s merely a preponderance of evidence.”

According to the association’s website, crime-free-association.org, the program is being used internationally in 2,000 cities in 44 U.S. states, five Canadian provinces, Mexico, England, Finland, Japan, Russia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Puerto Rico.

“Particularly the Canadians are really good at it,” Easley said.

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