Crime

August 4, 2014

Belleville landlords may face charges if crime continues

The owners of an apartment building where a shooting took place in July could face charges if they continue to manage their property in a way that fosters criminal activity, county prosecutors said Monday.

On July 21, a man was shot when suspects opened fire on a car he was sitting in with a group of people at 7701 W. Main St.

In a letter St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly wrote to building owners Kim and Araya Hoang, Kelly said that the building has been the site of "frequent criminal activity" according to public and police complaints.

The letter warned the Hoangs, of Florissant, Mo., that state law allows criminal charges against property owners for allowing conditions that give rise to criminal activity.

Such criminal charges include maintaining a public nuisance and criminal housing management.

"The condition and management of your premises may foster criminal activity and misconduct that has a detrimental impact on the surrounding community," Kelly stated.

Kelly acknowledges that the landlords have taken steps to address these issues, including evicting tenants after last month's shooting.

But if the landlords do not maintain these preventive measures, then the owners could be subject to penalties, Kelly said.

"A warning, followed by charges if those warnings are ignored, is a method we've used with other property owners to push them to act preventively," he said. "We'll work with the Belleville Police Department to monitor conditions there."

Days after the shooting, police accompanied the property owner in serving some of the tenants at the complex with 10-day eviction notices.

Now, four of the eight tenants are in the process of eviction. Two of the evictions are related to the shooting and the other two resulted from issues of overcrowding, warrant arrests and incidents involving marijuana.

This year, police responded to 65 calls for service to the apartments, including the July 21 shooting.

Of these calls, housing officials completed 16 rental incident forms to notify the property owners, which the city is required to do as part of the Crime-Free Housing program implemented in November.

Leading up to the shooting, the rental incident forms detail incidents such as loitering, verbal and domestic disturbances and drug sales.

The Crime-Free ordinance calls for landlords and rental property owners to evict tenants facing felony or misdemeanor charges committed at the property.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 618-239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BNDJLee.

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