BY MIKE CETERA
Eight years ago, a fellow reporter -- who is now an Aurora police officer -- and I wrote a series detailing the problems Aurora has with crime and rental property.
The series -- which brought us into the neighborhoods face-to-face with residents scared and frustrated by the criminals who made their communities unsafe to live in -- I thought pointed out the glaring lack of authority the city had (and has) in removing the problem (namely criminals) from neighborhoods. The city knew it had a problem on its hands (we weren't pointing anything out to officials they didn't already know), but seemed reluctant at the time to make any bold changes.
Nearly a decade later, the city seems ready to deal with the problem.
From today's story:
As proposed, the city's Crime Free Housing Initiative would require landlords to be certified and properties licensed for rental in Aurora, with a greater push on tenant background checks and written leases. Properties deemed a nuisance because of "excessive" police calls tied to a variety of illegal activities could mean fines or worse for owners.
Here's the hammer:
Properties could be deemed chronic or aggravated nuisances because of, among other things, repeated complaints of drug, alcohol or gang activity, officials said. Additionally, fines, as well as possible license suspension or revocations, could be levied against owners of properties which generate an "excessive" number of calls for police service.
Holding landlords accountable for their tenants is nothing new, but it's a smart move by Aurora officials. Joliet had a similar program at the time of our series:
Tired of responding to the same buildings year after year, Joliet started a program in 1990 that targeted irresponsible landlords of property that had excessive police calls or code violations.
The city requires a rental certificate of all property owners who lease to two or more tenants. That certificate has been taken away from dozens of landlords who have failed to cooperate with police following excessive criminal activity, Lt. Jim Powers said.
"What the city gives, the city can take away," said Powers, head of the department's neighborhood policing unit.
Joliet police say this simple licensing process, which has spawned more than 400 cases during the last four years, has been successful in reducing police calls and evicting problem tenants.
Read the entire series, originally published between Aug. 13 and Aug. 16, 2000:Bad Houses: 168 N. Union Street