COLUMBIA — The number of people living in Columbia rental properties who have also been arrested has decreased in the past eight years, said Officer Tim Thomason of the Columbia Police Department.
In 2003, 4,000 arrest sheets were sent to Columbia landlords informing them of tenants in their properties who had been arrested, Thomason said. But in 2011, 2,650 arrest sheets were sent, about a 66 percent drop from 2003.
Thursday night, Thomason spoke at the third annual Columbia Landlords Against Crime town hall meeting. Landlords and property managers joined together and shared strategies for reducing crime in their properties, such as running more in-depth screening processes, enforcing rules and making properties more attractive to attract "good people."
In the late '90s, Columbia police officers found that two-thirds of Columbia's drug search warrants were in rental units, moderator and former police officer Zim Schwartze said. Over the past 15 years, area landlords have worked with police to take action against criminal activity in Columbia.
During Thursday's meeting, Kevin Thompson of Accudata Credit Systems, encouraged landlords to consider reporting unpaid rent and damages on their tenants' credit files in order to prevent tenants from getting approved loans for cars, houses, cellphones or other purchases that require a credit report. This prompts tenants to pay their rent before the unpaid charges go on their credit records, he said.
"It's a great way to recover damages without going to court," Thompson said.
Columbia Landlords Against Crime also gave out several awards Thursday. After winning the "Best Crime-Free Housing Success Story" award, property manager Michael Jones shared his strategy with the group.
"I only advertise on Craigslist," he said. "It's brought better tenants."
Property owner Geneva Moody and property manager Jennifer Hayes said they attended the meeting to learn new ideas and techniques for property security. After attending last year's meeting, they addressed the problem of unwanted visitors and break-ins by hiring a security officer to randomly assess the property on a regular basis for drug deals and other suspicious behavior. Moody said she thinks this strategy has helped reduce these problems.
Ben Gakinya, who hosted this year's meeting, said he plans to spread next year's meeting over two or three days and include roundtable sessions for landlords and managers to meet to discuss issues that are specific to their needs and interests.
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