Blue Star Shines in Westchase

Plants only thrive under certain conditions. The same can be said about crime. To make sure apartment complexes are as safe as they can be, the Houston Police Department and Houston Apartment Association have developed the Blue Star program. Houston Public Radio's Rod Rice reports.

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Blue Star was adapted for Houston about a year and a half ago from a program that began in Mesa, Arizona. It is a three phase process that when completed earns a complex a Blue Star certification. There are 31 Blue Star apartment complexes in Houston, 23 of which are in the Westchase District.

"We really pushed it in the area. We have meetings with the apartment managers in the area to make sure they get to know each other and it just kind of took off."

Mark Hubenak is Public Safety Director for the Westchase District which is a four and a half square mile area centered along the Sam Houston Tollway between the Katy and Southwest freeways. Tanya King manages Richmond Green in the 99-hundred block of Richmond Avenue. It was one of the first complexes to get Blue Star certification, which King says is good for business.

"It just gives us a little bit of leverage to say they we are doing everything we can to make our property a better place. To make sure our lighting is up to par; to make sure we follow the criteria set forth by the Blue Star program. That way our residents feel like we are at least doing what we can do to offer them a good product."

HPD Officer Michael Prause runs Blue Star on the west side of Houston. He says the certification process begins with an eight hour training session for apartment managers. He then checks the complex to make sure it meets Blue Star requirements. Landscaping plays a big role in apartment complex safety.

"Bushes around windows and doorways and walkways where it's an advantage for a suspect to hide behind we like the bushes to be three feet or less. If you have a large bush that's five, six, seven feet tall, then cut out the bottoms so you can see suspects or someone standing behind there waiting for the ambush."

Officer Prause says tree canopies must be high enough so the do not block the lighting and create dark shadowy areas. He says lighting is very important.

"I like all the lights to work. If all the lights are operational and the landscaping is looking pretty good then we can work on the other stuff and get it taken care of."

After passing Officer Prause's inspection the apartment complex must hold a safety social for its residents to explain and teach them about Blue Star.

That's when they get the Blue Star sign for their gate. The Westchase District also provides a Blue Star sign of its own and then adds the property to a program it calls Westchase Exclusive Apartments. Human Resources Directors from area employers will be taken on a tour of Westchase Exclusive apartments so they will tell new employees about places to live that are close to work.

For more on Blue Star you'll find a link at kuhf.org.

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