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Batavia touting success of crime-free housing ordinance

BATAVIA – Police officials are attributing the fact that service calls to the city’s eight largest apartment complexes have mostly gone down in the last year thanks to the city’s crime-free housing program.

“We try to nip problems in the bud before they become a larger problem,” Batavia police Detective Kevin Bretz told aldermen Tuesday as he presented them with an update on how the program is going.

The Batavia City Council approved in September 2011 an ordinance designed to reduce crime at apartment complexes of 10 or more units. The ordinance is being enforced on a trial basis for two years.

The program was initiated in January 2012. Under the program, 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.

Bretz presented aldermen with data from January through December 2012. Overall, Bretz said, the apartment complexes have trended downward in calls for service and the severity of criminal activity. In 2008, Batavia Apartments – which at 290 units is the city’s largest complex – had 764 calls for service. That went down to 466 calls in 2011, but went up to 587 calls in 2012.

Bretz attributed the increase to the stepped-up patrols by foot and squad patrols at Batavia Apartments.

“These calls were primarily officer initiated to check suspicious person and vehicle activity and an increase in noise and loud party complaints,” he said.

Despite the crime-free ordinance in place, there was a homicide and attempted homicide last year at Batavia Apartments.

Latoya Baines, 24, a Batavia Apartments resident, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the April 30, 2012, stabbing death of Chicago resident Gerald J. Jackson, 25. Police said the stabbing was the result of a domestic dispute.

Police also responded to another stabbing 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.

Bretz said the tenants in both cases were evicted.

“These types of crimes are very unpredictable and usually erupt out of a domestic situation that gets out of control,” he said.

Batavia 1st Ward Alderman Michael O’Brien said he was pleased to see the reduction in calls for service at the apartment complexes.

“It adds to the quality of life in those apartment buildings,” he said.

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