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Issues raised at a meeting with Minneapolis police chief Robert Olson

December 5, 1995

Dear Chief Olson:

After you met with Minneapolis landlords on Saturday, October 18, you suggested that a group of landlords meet with officers from your department to discuss ways to improve relations between landlords and city police.

You suggested that the focus be on three problems of concern to landlords. You asked that we write you a letter requesting a meeting and proposing discussion items.

The problems that we would like to discuss fall into the following areas:

(1) Better definition of our respective responsibilities for controlling crime that takes place in or near rental properties: In our view, landlords have the power to admit and evict tenants. We often lack the knowledge of criminal activities related to our buildings as well as the expertise in identifying persons engaged in such activities. The drug dealers are easily able to fool us. We need the help of city police in identifying them, both on the front end (so that we do not admit them as tenants) and on the back end (so that we can evict them promptly from our buildings). Let’s discuss ways that the police can help us to identify and ocument undesirable tenants. Most landlords would be willing to follow through with evictions where the evidence warrants it. Let’s develop procedures for better cooperation. From our standpoint, we look the the police to provide information about crime that we can use to exclude undesirable persons from our buildings.

(2) More open and honest police work with respect to landlords: Many landlords believe that the city police cannot be trusted to provide effective law-enforcement services related to our buildings. Police response time to 911 calls is slow. The officers are sometimes rude or they appear disinterested. Property crimes are seldom solved or, it seems, even investigated. Instead, landlords have the experience of having building conditions reported to the city health department or to housing inspectors, giving the appearance that the police are more interested in the building condition than in the crime committed there. The officer does not have to exert himself or expose himself to personal risk to stop crime. Instead, a city inspector punishes landlords and innocent tenants for the misdeeds of a few mishehaving tenants. Justice is not served.

(3) Misuse of 911 calls and their inclusion on lists: Normally interested citizens, including landlords, should be encouraged to report crimes to the city police. The reality is, however, that if a landlord or another person reports crime in or near a building, the call goes on a list. The list is interpreted by the police, nieghborhood groups, and others to mean that the landlord was negligent in supervising his building. Buildings to which many calls are related go on lists of “problem properties” that incur certain penalties.

Thus, a Catch-22 situation develops. The creation of lists discourages landlords from using police services. Unscrupulous, anonymous persons in a neighborhood can make repeated complaining calls which damage a landlord’s reputation. In other words, the potential for abuse is great. Landlords and police need to work together to share information about crime. Systems that discourage the flow of crime-related information become obstacles to solving crime problems.

I hope that you will find the above topics to be useful discussion topics. We are encouraged by your receptive attitude toward our concerns and believe that, if the city’s police and landlords can develop a better framework of cooperation, the community will benefit.

Prospectively, the following individuals would be available to meet with your representatives on behalf of landlords:

Gerald Snyder
Charles Disney
Robert Anderson
William McGaughey
Edward Eubanks

We look forward to hearing from you or a representative regarding arrangements for a meeting that would be mutually convenient. Again, thanks for your interest and concern.

Sincerely,

William McGaughey

 

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