A Columbia County apartment complex is doing everything it can to be crime-free.
Ridge Crossing Apartments has become the first "Crime Free Multi-Housing" unit, a label it received by completing a three-stage program through the Columbia County Sheriff's Office.
Apartments manager Toni Liberti and her staff first attended an eight-hour training seminar, then Captain Jim March of the Community Services Division inspected the property for improvements that might deter crime.
"We've installed new peep-holes that have a 180-degree angle when you look out, better door jambs, and we rode the property with the deputy who pointed out areas where we needed more lights," said Liberti. "These things cost money, but when you're talking about the safety of residents, you can't put a dollar amount on it."
Burglar alarms have been installed in each of the complex's 284 units.
March said the program is similar to a neighborhood watch program, but it gives the property manager more authority and knowledge about who they are renting to. Every adult is required to undergo a background check before the leasing process is completed, or when the lease is renewed. The manager also receives any incident reports involving tenants, and people with serious violations can be asked to leave.
"I think people will want to live in a property where people are concerned," Liberti said. "I would like to know that my neighbor is not a child molester or has been in prison."
March said the program is mutually beneficial.
"Hopefully we will lower the crime rate and we won't have to police it as often," he said.
March said his goal is to expand the program to other complexes.
"From a liability standpoint it shows that management is doing everything they can to make the community crime free," he said.
The Crime Free Multi-Housing Program - designed to reduce crime, drug activity and gangs on apartment properties - was developed in Arizona in 1992. Since then, it has spread throughout the United States and Canada and now is being implemented in 700 cities. Certified properties have reported a reduction in police calls of up to 70 percent over previous years, according to Chris E. McGoey, a security expert.
For more information about the program and to view the Crime Free Lease Addendum, check on the Web at www.crimedoctor.com/crimefree1.htm.
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