Academic journal article Western Criminology Review

Controlling Crime and Disorder in Rental Properties: The Perspective of the Rental Property Manager

Academic journal article Western Criminology Review

Controlling Crime and Disorder in Rental Properties: The Perspective of the Rental Property Manager

Article excerpt

Abstract: A rental property manager is expected to fulfill a central role in third-party policing programs. Despite the growing implementation of third-party policing programs, little evaluative evidence exists on these programs, let alone the perspective of the third party who is expected to fulfill a regulatory or enforcement function. This research presents the findings of a mail survey administered to rental property managers who were expected to assume a third-party policing role under a newly enacted nuisance rental property ordinance in State College, PA. The survey focused on identifying the rental property management techniques that would impact crime and disorder and also gathered general opinions on the ordinance. The survey was conducted in conjunction with a legal impact study which found that the ordinance was very successful in reducing crime and disorder in nuisance rental properties. The survey found that the majority of rental property managers have a desire and are willing to assist in crime prevention and control, although need direction from the police on how to fulfill this role.

Keywords: civil remedies for crime control, crime prevention, private justice, third-party policing


It has long been recognized that modern societies rely on systems of private justice (Henry1994) or non-state mechanisms of social control to prevent, police, or otherwise reduce or punish deviance or law violations by members who are involved in various institutional settings. These settings include workplaces (Henry 1983), shopping malls (Manzo 2005), schools, uni-versities, and housing complexes, and self-help and mutual aid groups. The present paper reports on a study of the third-party policing (Buerger and Mazerolle 1998; Desmond and Valdez 2013; Mazerolle and Buerger 2005) of rental properties in a college town and focuses on the social control mechanisms and perceptions of the rental property manager.

State College Borough is located in central Pennsylvania. State College is often associated with being home to the Pennsylvania State University. Penn State is the largest university in Pennsylvania, and the 11th largest in the United States with approximately 44,000 students (University Budget Office n.d.). Conversely, State College Borough is only four square miles; however, it is the most populated borough in Pennsylvania with 39,898 residents. State College Borough geographically surrounds Penn State University. Approximately 19,000 Borough residents are Penn State students, most of who live in rental housing (State College Police Department Records Management n.d.). Consistent with the social disorganization literature (Kubrin and Weitzer 2003; Sampson and Groves 1989), there is a high correlation between rentals and crime in State College. Crime maps that overlay rental density and crime density in State College show that the majority of indoor and outdoor crimes occur in and around rentals (State College Police Department Records Management n.d.). Additionally, since at least 1970, there has been a disproportionate and growing number of rental units in State College Borough, and this trend has continued to the present day (2013) with nearly 80% (9,717) of all housing units in State College Borough designated as renter- occupied (State College Police Department Records Management n.d.).

In response to the data and perceived high correlation between crime and rentals, the growing complaints at the neighborhood level regarding quality of life issues, outward migration, and diminishing resources, the State College Borough Council revised their Nuisance Rental Property Ordinance in November, 2004 (State College Police Department Records Management n.d.). Ordinances such as this normally involve civil penalties and have been used or created throughout the United States when criminal laws have been ineffective at addressing a variety of issues ranging from neighborhood quality of life issues to domestic violence protection orders (Mazerolle and Roehl 1998). …

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