When a carpenter wants to build an apartment building, he picks up his hammer. When law enforcement wants to fight crime at those apartments, they also have tools.
Bam. You patrol the area.
Bam. You check out the neighbors' complaints.
Bam. You report the incidents.
Bam. You threaten the landlord with criminal charges for keeping a nuisance.
Belleville Police were trying to get a Florissant, Mo., couple, Kim and Araya Hoang, to deal with the criminal element at their Oakglen Apartments, 7701 W. Main St., long before July 21 when more than a dozen shots were fired there and a man was injured. Police handled 65 calls to the apartment just this year. Neighbors and police report drug deals, fights and domestic abuse.
The day after the shooting, the Hoangs evicted four of the eight tenants in their building -- two for their ties to the shooting and two for other criminal activity. To say the least, tenant background checks seem to have been a little lax at the apartments.
St. Clair County prosecutors on Aug. 4 gave the Hoangs written notice that they could face criminal charges if they don't become better stewards of their property.
Oakglen Apartments may be well on its way to getting fixed. Yet you know there will be another complex that presents problems like we formerly saw on Freedom Drive or at "The Hole" off 74th Street.
Neighbors will need to remain vocal when they see a problem spot. The police and prosecutors will need to be there to again hit the one that sticks out. Landlords will need to cooperate before the crisis comes.
It takes a lot of hammering by a lot of hands to create a solid structure, but it is worth the effort to create a place where children can play, neighbors can stroll and residents won't fear going outside.