Concentrated Low-Income Housing Creates Havens of Crime, Expert Says; Conference Suggests Alternatives to Clean Up Problem Properties

By Conner, Deirdre | The Florida Times Union, May 23, 2009 | Go to article overview

Concentrated Low-Income Housing Creates Havens of Crime, Expert Says; Conference Suggests Alternatives to Clean Up Problem Properties


Conner, Deirdre, The Florida Times Union


Byline: DEIRDRE CONNER

Low-income housing complexes are contributing to crime and urban decay and need to be cleaned up or shut down.

That idea is nothing new to crime experts in Jacksonville, where apartment complexes have been havens for violent crime. But solutions to the problem are difficult.

Various ideas used across the country to end crime-ridden housing projects was the subject of one of Friday's sessions at the National Conference on Preventing Crime in the Black Community, which wraps up today in Jacksonville.

If West Palm Beach lawyer Richard Ryles could do it, he would shut down every one of the housing projects and scatter residents into mixed-income housing developments or suburban neighborhoods.

But Ryles, who has spent 15 years suing low-income housing complexes' property management companies for neglecting to take security measures and keeping information about crimes secret from residents, knows that's not feasible for most cities.

So he highlighted other proposals Friday. Among them:

-In Milwaukee, complexes that have a certain number of police calls for certain activities - such as drug dealing, loitering or prostitution - trigger a mandate that the property owners submit plans to the city showing what they are doing to fix the problem. If they don't take steps to make improvements, the city starts adding a bill for law enforcement services to their annual tax bill (instead of a lien, which must be paid only if the property is sold).

-Richmond, Va., passed a trespassing law and street privatization that allowed public housing authorities to ban certain people from public housing and its interior streets. It is highly controversial but was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003.

-General proactive management practices include meeting regularly with law enforcement, bringing the housing physically up to code in terms of safety and having strict lease agreements that keep out what Ryles calls "baby boys. …

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