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Batavia’s apartment complexes attempt to maintain safety

BATAVIA – Batavia Apartments resident Jay Fitzpatrick said she feels safe living at the East Wilson Street apartments – a place she has called home for a year – despite a homicide at the complex in April and a nonfatal stabbing that happened in August.

“Whatever problems they had, they have seemed to fix them,” Fitzpatrick said. “This can happen anywhere you go.”

Latoya Baines, 24, a Batavia Apartments resident, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the April 30 stabbing death of Chicago resident Gerald J. Jackson, 25. Police said the stabbing occurred as a result of a domestic dispute.

Police responded to another stabbing at the complex in August. Cyrenthia D. Williams, 18, of the 5100 block of West Concord Place in Chicago, was charged with aggravated battery causing bodily harm and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, each a felony. Police found a 26-year-old Aurora woman who said she had been stabbed with a knife in a domestic dispute. She was taken to Delnor Hospital in Geneva with injuries that were not life-threatening.

With 290 units, Batavia Apartments is the largest complex in the city. The building is operated by Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, a nonprofit health care and housing organization. Most of the units are subsidized through the federal government.

The two incidents happened despite an ordinance the Batavia City Council approved in September 2011 designed to reduce crime at apartment complexes of 10 or more units. The ordinance is being enforced on a trial basis for two years. Under it, landlords must include a crime-free lease addendum that makes criminal activity a violation and grounds for eviction. That includes murder, drug-related criminal activity, prostitution and unlawful use of weapons.

The addendum covers residents and their guests. Batavia Police Detective Kevin Bretz said most of the people connected to April’s homicide were requested to move out of the apartment. If they did not, the eviction process would start.

The department responds to a maximum of 60 calls a week at the complex, Bretz said.

“That’s with no regularity,” said Bretz, adding the number fluctuates. “That’s the most of any complex in the city.”

He said most of those calls are less severe in nature, such as for a theft or loud party.

“You have a lot more people out there,” Bretz said. “You are going to have more calls out there.”

Bretz said the police department over the years has had a good working relationship with the Batavia Apartments’ management. And despite the crime-free ordinance in place, Bretz said crimes are bound to happen.

“You have laws that prohibit all types of crime, and crimes are still committed,” he said. “Things are going to happen whether we have an ordinance or not.”

Bretz said the ordinance already has proven to be a tool to track criminal activity and police calls for service.

“The apartment complex managers are liking it because they know what is going on in their complexes,” he said.

In conjunction with the crime-free ordinance, the police department has had an agreement with Batavia Apartments since about 2000 that allows the department to arrest people who have no purpose at the complex.

“They can be arrested for criminal trespass if they are caught on the property,” Bretz said. “We use that as a tool to keep those people out of the complex, people who don’t belong there. I think that it has been very effective. They don’t want to be arrested for criminal trespass.”

Susan Karrenbauer, regional manager for Batavia Apartments, said the August stabbing involved two people who did not live at the complex. They have been banned from the complex, she said, and the owner of the apartment where the stabbing took place has been told the incident was a violation of the lease and any future criminal activity could result in eviction.

Karrenbauer said she thinks the crime-free ordinance is an important tool that mirrored the rules dictated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“We definitely think it’s a good policy to have,” she said.

Jan Knapp, property manager for Green Meadows Apartments on West Wilson Street, said residents have been notified of the rules since the ordinance went into effect.

“We do think it’s a good thing, although we’ve been very lucky,” she said. “We probably only have a few calls a year. We’re already crime-free.”

Karrenbauer said she believes Batavia Apartments is a safe complex, despite what has happened there in the past.

“We work very hard to maintain the safety of all residents,” she said.

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