Overcoming a Legacy of Apartment Crime
The most critical part of any crime prevention and eradication game plan is recognizing the signs of criminal activity or potentially unsafe living conditions. One man who is an expert at spotting such signs is Legacy Community Housing Corporation founder Brent Sobol, who has made a career out of repositioning distressed multifamily housing properties of 100 units or more in low-income areas. He will be heading up an education session at NAA's June conference titled "Turning Crime-Ridden Properties Into Profitable Communities." The below chat covers some of the things he will be discussing at that event:
NATIONAL APARTMENT ASSOCIATION: Mr. Sobol, please introduce yourself to our readers.
BRENT SOBOL: I'm a third-generation apartment property manager. My first assignment was managing my fraternity house in college. If I could manage that housing, there is NO housing I can't manage! I've been doing this for about 15 years, and I'm passionate about safe housing. I see it not as a right, but as a professional duty of our profession. I got into this by accident, because I bought a property in Atlanta that had out-of-control crime. It was either sink or swim. It forced me to get knowledgeable quickly about what to do about crime. So, I engaged in a pretty aggressive self-study, reading everything I could find and talking to all different types of law enforcement and members of the criminal justice system, whether it be juvenile justice or prosecutors. I figured out real-world, cost-effective solutions that take dangerous properties and makes them award-winning properties.
NAA: With that first property, how long did it take before you got things working the way you wanted them to work?
BS: I had a massive learning curve. There weren't resources available to just easily call on. It ended up taking about three years. It was a large property, with 300-plus units.
NAA: What were some of the early strategies that you were able to employ there that turned things around?
BS: You have to have great curb appeal, even if the neighborhood isn't demanding it. That said, there are some basics to apartment crime prevention such as proper lighting, proper locks on windows and doors, proper landscaping, and proper office protocols.
NAA: When people do think about crime-ridden apartment communities, some stereotypes come to mind. But does crime occur only at affordable housing communities or is it across all types?
BS: I believe that crime is our industry's dirty little secret. Everyone has it, and no one likes to talk about it because it's unpleasant and not always easy to address. Crime shows itself differently in different asset classes. Those that have more can afford to hide their behavior better, in my opinion, than those that don't make more. I think there are more drugs in the higher-end areas than the lower-end areas, because they can afford it.