Guest view: Crime-free ordinance would stabilize Belleville

August 25, 2013 

Aug. 28, 6 p.m., Belleville City Council chambers.

Why should this date be important to you? Because this is the final public hearing on the proposed Crime Free Ordinance before it goes to a full vote of the Belleville City Council in September.

What does this mean to you as reisdents of Belleville? Do you realize that more than 35 percent of the housing in Belleville is rental? Do you realize that passing a crime-free policy will give the Police Department and landlords more power enforcing leases, codes and ordinances? Do you realize that we are in the minority when it comes to a crime-free housing ordinance? Almost every city in our area has adopted a crime-free policy.

This proposed ordinance will not take away the rights of the landlord or the tenants. It will get landlords and the Police Department on the same page. All landlords will be required to take classes and perform proper background checks on future tenants, just as they are doing currently in surrounding communities.

These requirements should be welcomed by the landlord and the future tenants. It will help them alleviate potential problems. It will provide a sense of security to tenants who deserve to live in peace without the fear of domestic disturbance, drug activity and the abuse of occupancy permits.

What about the rights of the homeowners who are affected by the lack of a crime-free ordinance? Being in close proximity to nuisance properties has devalued their property and their equity is slipping away. Just like the tenants, they should not be subjected to crime, drugs and ill-kept properties. Homeowners have made a vested interest in our community and their rights should be protected.

Home of the county seat and within proximity to Scott Air Force Base, we have a constant influx of people moving in and out of our city. As a result, we should be proactive in providing a safe, clean and healthy living environment.

I have had people say to me that we should allow landlords to make their own decisions as they are mature, responsible people. In a perfect world this might be true. But there's a percentage of absentee or irresponsible landlords who don't care about the upkeep of their property or the safety and well-being of their tenants and the surrounding neighborhoods. The bottom line is the almighty dollar, which gets in the way of common sense and responsibility.

Many of our landlords forget they are running a business and many hate to admit it. In fact, as of right now, the landlords are not required to get a business permit in Belleville.

Good businesses bring in tax dollars and stabilize communities. Is that happening right now in the rental business?

If rundown rental properties and irresponsible landlords are a concern to you, then you cannot sit on your hands. Speak up. Speak loud. Contact your aldermen with question and concerns.

If we don't pass a strong crime-free ordinance, shame on us. Let's come together and pack the City Council chambers at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Roger Wigginton is owner of Don Rodgers Ltd. and co-chair of the West Belleville Promotional Committee.

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