Residents weigh in on effectiveness of crime training for rental properties

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Police Department held the Crime Free Multi-Housing Training for rental property managers Tuesday.

Some Columbia residents say they think rental property owners who are trained to handle crime could make their apartment complexes feel safer. 

CPD's training program is designed to address how managers should handle crime on their properties. 

Tuesday's training is the first phase in the program. It was first developed in 1992, and since then, Columbia Police Officer Jason McClintic said the department has held the training a few times a year. 

McClintic said the program can't prevent crime, but it does help landlords when crime happens.

"We understand there's going to be problems and crimes that occur," McClintic said. "The crime free program cannot guarantee there will be no crime. What they're really trying to work on is the minimization of any crime."

There are seven fully certified "Crime Free Multi-Housing" properties in Columbia, five of which are student housing complexes. One certified complex is the Deerfield Apartments on Sylvan Lane. 

Sylvan Lane has experienced an increase in crime in the past few years, residents said. Some residents said inattentive landlords could be part of the problem. 

"From a management perspective, these are your properties," Ashley Swatek, a Deerfield Apartments resident, said. "You need to be more involved and actually take ownership."

Swatek said living in a certified property doesn't feel much different than living in another apartment complex. She said crime is still handled the same way as it is at other properties. 

Austin Wright, another Deerfield Apartments resident, said he thinks the training does help landlords handle crime.

"I think for landlords who have taken this type of training, they can act more rationally when it comes to crime situations," Wright said. "If they've been informed on what to do and what steps to take, I think it would make you feel more secure."

Wright said he feels safe in his property, even though he has seen an increase in crime in the area.

McClintic said some properties could "value" going through training again, but he didn't specify which ones.

After the first phase of training, landlords have to go through two more phases. For phase two, the Crime Free staff certifies whether the properties have met safety requirements, such as deadbolt locks and adequate lighting. McClintic said he hopes to have 12 more certified properties this year.