The City of Houston is facing a shortage of police officers and what appears to be a growing rash of crime. Apartment complexes in the West and Southwest area of town are a growing concern for the city and community members. Houston Mayor Bill White says he's asked council to consider an ordinance which would require complexes to comply with certain building codes such as lighting and fencing, as well as hold apartment owners accountable for some safety measures.
"There is some, I think frankly, misapprehension among apartment owners that they're going to be penalized for crimes that occur on their property. That will not occur. What it will is we'll use -- we want them to share with us the responsibility of devising a strategy to deal with the crime."
The mayor wants city officials to be able to conduct inspections at complexes and make recommendations for improvements. Houston Apartment Association President Jerry Winograd says his organization is concerned about the implications of the ordinance for law-abiding complexes.
"Just the way some of the proposed wording is right now, it could be that you're doing everything they want you to do but you could still have a problem and it could be because your neighbor isn't doing the right thing. And that's our concern. We want to make sure the people that are doing the right thing aren't penalized because the neighbor isn't doing the right thing."
The Houston Apartment Association is working with the city to flesh out the details of security standards. Winograd says the ordinance has potential to be good, as long as the right resources of law enforcement are in place. The mayor says right now the city can come in and impose certain sanctions on complex owners.
"We have the FAST unit who can come in and shut you down. So we have the sort of the death penalty."
But the mayor says there's nothing in place right now that allows the city to take intermediate steps of enforcement prior to a total shutdown. The issue is being discussed in a council committee. Mayor White says he's less concerned about passing an ordinance than he is about getting the tools in place to reduce apartment crime. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.