URBANA – An advisory task force will look at how to reduce crime in and around larger apartment buildings, after its approval Monday night by the Urbana City Council.
Alderwoman Lynne Barnes, D-Ward 7, suggested creating the task force, saying she was concerned about an increase in crime in southeast Urbana that began in 2004.
In Beat 64, which covers southeast Urbana, the number of crime reports written by city police increased by 37.9 percent from 2003 to 2004, while the number of calls for police service in Beat 64 increased by 9.5 percent during the same period.
"I think it (the task force) could make a big difference in our community," said Barnes, who noted that crime so far this year is down 14 percent in the area.
The task force will probably have about 10 members and will hold neighborhood meetings throughout the city to get resident input, said Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing, who asked council members to submit candidates to her.
The task force will look at crime citywide, she added.
Prussing said she's taking a three-part approach to improving public safety in Urbana, including adding more police officers (three were added this year); having police work with residents to create neighborhood watch programs; and looking at ways to improve city ordinances so the city can be more effective in fighting crime.
The task force will be charged with looking at city ordinances and possibly creating a new one. Prussing said she wants the task force to consider an ordinance that Schaumburg, in northwest suburban Chicago, approved two years ago as well as a more recent ordinance enacted in Normal.
The Schaumburg ordinance requires landlords to obtain a city license – a license they can lose if they don't take steps to reduce crime on their properties.
The Schaumburg ordinance requires landlords to undergo an eight-hour training session about how to make their property crime-free. The ordinance also requires landlords to include in their leases a provision making criminal activity a violation that can lead to eviction.
"I think we should start by looking at what works in other cities," Prussing said.
Prussing said the city would try to focus first on problem apartments and work with landlords to get them to clean up their properties and do a better job.
"But we might have to go with a citywide ordinance," she said.
Alderwoman Danielle Chynoweth, D-Ward 2, said she agreed that "bad behavior shouldn't be tolerated." But she also said she didn't want the ordinance to allow for people to be evicted on the word of a neighbor, as she said they could file false reports.
Chynoweth also noted that Beat 64 includes some of the fastest-growing areas in the city and that increased population in recent years probably accounts for at least some of the crime increase there.