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Landlords to Pay for Police Protection

landlord helpBoston’s Mayor Thomas Menino has been dogged by allegations he’s too soft on crime.

Last Tuesday he sent out notice of a press conference announcing a new crime task force. The venue: the street in front of a rental property.

There, Menino announced his new wave of crime fighting–focused on landlords.

The Problem Properties Task Force commissioned by the Mayor is comprised of representatives from the police and fire departments, building inspectors, neighborhood liiasons, public health, the housing authority, transportation, and an attorney.

Mayor Menino declared the apartment he stood in front of a “longstanding problem property and known site of drug use and prostitution” and identified it as the first target of his Problem Properties Task Force.

According to the Mayor, the property has received at least 14 complaints of criminal activity since May, 2010 including “five assault and batteries with a weapon, five assault and batteries, nine verbal disputes and various other charges including intimidating a witness, drug activity, weapons violations and a violation of a restraining order.”  In total, there were over 105 calls-for-service in the same time period and an investigation has provided significant evidence of prostitution, drug trafficking and loitering as well as several regulatory and code violations, according to a statement released by the Mayor’s office.

During the press event, the police were staged to remove illegal materials from the house, tow and impound a vehicle that has been directly associated with the criminal activity taking place at the location, place a large light-up sign displaying the Mayors 24-Hour Hotline number in front of the house, and increase the police patrol of the area surrounding the house.

The landlord will have to pay for the extra police detail, and is required to meet with Boston police and city officials to outline his plan for addressing crimes in the neighborhood while ensuring the safety of his tenants. He will be charged for the expense of having an on-duty officer monitoring the property until the City is satisfied with his response.

According to city records, the landlord owns 16 other properties in the area.

The Problem Properties Task Force was established as part of a city ordinance that will officially provide the City with the ability to charge “negligent or inattentive owners” with the necessary monetary costs of securing their problem properties. The City Council is expected to vote on the ordinance Wednesday, July 13.

Once approved by the City Council, the ordinance will provide the City the ability to place an around-the-clock police detail in front of problem properties until specified issues have been alleviated. The ordinance will also hold the property owners 100% accountable for all expenses associated with police details, light-up signs and any other actions taken. Owners will be required to meet with respective district captains to produce plans-of-action to relieve public safety issues.

An Executive Order by Mayor Menino to establish the Task Force identifies a problem property as any location to which the Boston Police Department has been called four times or more within the preceding 12 month period for criminal offenses.

This concentrated effort will be mirrored in the investigation of seven other problem properties by the Problem Properties Task Force.

Menino’s decision to place a patrol outside the building has been criticized by many, including a city council member, after random shootings and stabbings left several people dead on the 4th of July. Concerns over the task force include fear that the plan takes needed patrols away from other crime centers, casts a false sense of security about solving gang violence, and that police, not landlords are the best-equipped to tackle crackheads and killers.

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