Jacksonville, FL – If you enjoy heart palpitating excitement, the kind that you can feel when you are about to embark on something really big, then you would have liked to been in my shoes. As part of Apartment Finder’s community involvement efforts, Kym Hottowe, Publisher of Jacksonville Apartment Finder, and I were asked to ride along with the Jacksonville’s Sheriff’s Department Crime Free Multi-Housing Prevention Unit to get a better understanding of how the program works for apartment communities. Not the text book version of understanding one would assume, but the real life hands on version of fighting crime.
The experience was exhilarating and scary at the same time and made us feel like we were filming an episode of the reality show, COPS. Except in our adventure, we did not have a producer, director or film crew with us. Our crew for the day included Kym, me, Captain Bowen and nine police officers who sported bullet proof vests and guns. In striking contrast to the fully clad officers, Kym and I were outfitted in our bright orange Apartment Finder shirts, capris, and our weapon of choice, our accessories. Criminals Beware!
Up until the moment of introduction, I did not know what to expect from the day that lie ahead. But the minute we were introduced to this Unit, that all changed. There were nine police officers all suited up with guns in their holsters. It then occurred to me that my highest expectation for the day was to make sure I returned home safely. It was an odd feeling but one that must be all too familiar to these men who risk their lives to protect our neighborhoods and communities each and every day.
Within seconds, we were assigned a squad car, paired with an officer and whisked away in the front seat of a police car to fight crime in our communities. I had never ridden in a cop car before and I was thankful at that moment to be in the front seat. My partner in crime for the next 8 hours was 18 year law enforcement veteran, Office Bobby Bacon. A delightful man yet by the very size of him, very intimidating. I new instantaneously, I was in good hands.
We set out on our journey driving through one apartment community after another looking for suspicious activity and stopping crime in its tracks. The drive-by’s were very successful not to mention intimidating. The Unit travels as one cohesive group with an unmarked car leading the pack. Once criminal activity is spotted by the unmarked vehicle, backup is called in and within seconds BAM nine police officers are on the scene. As you can imagine, the sight of nine police officers along with their squad cars sends a very strong message to the residents.
For the officers, this was just a typical day in law enforcement. But for Kym & I (aka Thelma and Louise) it was captivating. We witnessed 6 arrests (one juvenile) on various charges stemming from drug possession, intent to sell, loitering and resisting arrest. The climax of our day came later that evening when we observed a search warrant, ensuing foot chase and final arrest.
We saw it first hand that the Crime Free Multi-Housing program works. The program’s concept takes a multi-faceted approach to crime prevention. It is a unique coalition of police, property managers and residents alike. This on-going program has three phases that addresses all crime opportunities in rental properties and to date, has significant participation in the Jacksonville, area.
Since the inception 3 years ago, the program achieved instant success. Statistics show that in apartment communities with the highest crime rates, there was a 90% reduction in police calls for service. Other properties reflected a reduction of police service calls by 15%-20%.
The time spent with the Jacksonville Crime Free Multi-Housing Prevention program has been invaluable. We thank the Jacksonville’s Sheriff’s Department in partnering with Apartment Finder and allowing us to make a positive contribution to the community.
We would like to thank Captain Bowen & Officer Tomberg for allowing us the opportunity to be a part of the Crime Free Multi-Housing program. Thank you to Officers Bacon & Langley for being our escorts and partners for the day. And finally, thank you to the rest of the Crime Free Multi-Housing Prevention Unit for sharing your time and talent with us.
If you would like to learn more information about the Crime Free Multi-Housing Prevention program, please contact Officer Mike Tomberg #7430 of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office; Crime Free Multi-Housing Unit at (904) 642-8132 or Michael.Tomberg@jaxsheriff.org