COLUMBIA — Property managers, renters, tenants and concerned citizens attended the second annual Columbia Property Managers Against Crime Summit, where attendees voiced concerns about drug sale and usage, slumlords, Section 8 crime provisions, eviction procedures and overall effective communication.
About 70 attendees met with a panel Thursday night at Parkade Center, which consisted of law experts, housing authorities and law enforcement personnel to discuss issues relating to crime deterrence.
Attendees ranged from the fearful to the frustrated.
“How do we go about making safer neighborhoods?” Phil Steinhaus, CEO of the Columbia Housing Authority, asked the audience.
He went on to urge landlords to adopt practices such as tighter screening on potential tenants and the exercise of fairness among all tenants.
Many of the attending landlords who manage Section 8 housing came seeking guidance on how to minimize their difficulties with tenants who engage in criminal activity.
At one point, property owner and criminal defense lawyer Dan Viets stood up to offer commentary on the prevailing practice of denial of potential tenants with criminal records.
“We’ve got to be careful about applying such broad generalizations,” he said. “Not everyone who has committed a crime in the past is a criminal. We’ve all broken laws at some point in our lives. In the battle of ‘us v. them’, it’s really just ‘us.’ ”
Steve Scott from Scott Law Firm offered legal advice to the audience, such as eviction protocols for incarcerated tenants and drug-related lease clauses.
Also present were Officer Tim Thomason of the Columbia Police Department; Bill Cantin, response coordinator of the Office of Neighborhood Services; and Matt Nichols, president of Signal 88 Security.