Apartment Complex Managers Get Blue Star Training

An increase in murders at Houston apartment complexes over the past few months is shedding new light on an established crime prevention program that's being expanded here to address those crimes.

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The Blue Star Program has been in Houston for about six years, but has just recently been expanded as part of an effort to make the city's apartment complexes safer. Many of Houston's recent murders have taken place in or around apartment complexes, most notably in a concentrated area on the city's southwest side. Houston Police Sgt. Frank Escobido says the three-phase Blue Star training program for apartment owners and managers is aimed at reducing those violent crimes.

"We're able to focus our attention on those crimes a little bit closer with this program, and of course being able to work with each other, together we can help that crime rate go down."

In order to get Blue Star certification, apartment managers are required to complete specific training and inspect their properties with a police officer who advises on ways the complexes can be made safer. Gaylon Sanderson owns a complex on North Shepherd and says the program has paid-off for her.

"It gives us information we that need to improve our properties. Going through this process also tells our tenants that we're trying to create a better environment in which they will live. We ask them to participate and we've had HPD at our property talking to our tenants on two different occassions. It really gets the tenants involved and we're trying to clean-up our streets, so it's very important."

The Blue Star program has its roots in training that was started in Mesa, Arizona and was used by Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt when he was chief in Phoenix. Apartment manager Mike Cirillo says he's seen how the program works.

"I supervised properties in Phoenix so I was a previous participant in the crime-free multi-housing with my last company, so I'm very well aware of the program. I'm very well aware of the benefits that it can have. Certainly I'm hoping that Houston can enjoy the same success that Phoenix seems to have enjoyed."

Apartment manager Carol Tobola has gone through the Blue Star training and says if complexes across the city can control their small slices of Houston, together they can reduce crime.

"You're never going to stop crime. What you're going to do is in your area, find a way to control it. By being a leader on site, a property manager directs the direction of her property. If she take action with each invividual resident and makes them a part of that community, you see positive action."

Tobola was one of sixty apartment managers and owners who attended a Blue Star training session on the city's northeast side. The Houston Police Department plans additional training in other parts of the city.

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