By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
As population density increases in some of the fastest growing real estate markets, crime rates also tend to go up.
In many cases, municipal, county, and state governments have not increased the number of trained law enforcement officers to correspond with additional demand for services.
The result is a scarcity of resources, and competition among various neighborhoods for limited services. At the same time, government attempts to catch up with demand by creating new funding sources so they can grow their staff and purchase needed equipment.
Three recent reports highlight challenges faced by communities in three high-growth states: Florida, California, and Texas.
Pay as you go police services
In many private communities across the U.S., especially gated communities, public patrol of local police is limited or non-existent, unless homeowners are willing to pay extra for off-duty officers.
But in Palm Beach, the County Sheriff’s Office just announced that its hourly fees for off-duty officers will increase by 74% as of May 1, 2018. The announcement has come as a shock to homeowner, condominium, and co-op associations that rely on private patrol services.
Although HOA officials interviewed for by the Sun-Sentinel insist their community does not have a crime problem, homeowners still see the need for preventive late night patrols and extra security during special events.
Many communities also maintain common areas and amenities — parks, swimming pools, and outdoor sports courts — that require extra security to prevent unwanted guests and vandalism.
The HOA’s alternate plan is to hire officers from the Florida Highway Patrol, since their current hourly rate is $50, compared to $80 per hour for a Palm Beach County officer.
The reader can’t help but wonder when Florida Highway Patrol will raise their hourly rates, too.
Keep in mind that all Palm Beach homeowners are already paying property taxes to support the County Police Department. So, in effect, homeowners are double-taxed for patrol services.
Or, to look at it another way, only affluent communities that can afford to pay for “extra” protection are entitled to a higher level of service.
Ironically, many of the Palm Beach neighborhoods that do have higher crime rates cannot afford to pay for additional patrols.
PALM BEACH COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE NEARLY DOUBLING FEES FOR EXTRA PATROLS, OFF-DUTY SECURITY (FL)
By Skyler Swisher, The Sun-Sentinel
Feb. 27, 2018 6:05 P.M.
The cost of hiring an off-duty Palm Beach County deputy to staff an event or patrol a neighborhood after hours will nearly double under an agreement set to take effect May 1.
The hourly fee will rise from $46 to $80, according to a memo obtained through a public records request.
Teri Barbera, a spokeswoman for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, didn’t answer questions about why the fee needs to be increased but said in an email, “The new rate reflects the costs to the agency when supplying a deputy sheriff for extra duty employment.”
Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and the Police Benevolent Association, the union that represents deputies, signed the agreement on Feb. 14.
Gary Brown, president of the homeowners association at Trends at Boca Raton, said his community can’t afford the increase and will be switching to the Florida Highway Patrol, which charges $50 an hour, for security.
The neighborhood of 360 homes with monthly association fees of $70 has a security of budget of about $25,000, Brown said. He said more communities could also stop using the Sheriff’s Office, leading to less extra-duty work for deputies.
Criminals hiding behind the HOA gates
Home buyers often have the perception that gated association-governed communities are more safe and secure than ungated neighborhoods.
But is that truly the case?
Sometimes the bad guys choose to live in a gated community because they know local police won’t regularly patrol the street where they live.
In one California community, squatters invaded a home and embarked on an identity fraud and theft scheme in their own neighborhood. Offering unlicensed home and car repair services, the suspects were allegedly able to gain access to personal information and valuable possessions of their victims.
A few fearful neighbors reported suspicious activity to their HOA, who, in turn, notified the County Sheriff’s Department. After weeks of surveillance, the suspects were arrested.
No one seems to know how the suspects were able to break into the property they used as home base for their alleged criminal activity, let alone live there rent free.
POLICE BUST CRIMINAL OPERATION RUN OUT OF GATED COMMUNITY
Posted: Feb 28, 2018 11:23 PM EST
Updated: Feb 28, 2018 11:23 PM EST
KMIR Kitty Alvarado, Video Journalist
00:12 / 02:25
La Quinta, CA –
“People who live behind these gates in this community in La Quinta, say they lived in fear of the people who stayed at a home on Ali Court.
“Very uneasy, uneasy enough to go out and defending myself more than I have now,” said a man living in the Renaissance community that did not want to be identified.
Other residents we spoke with say they knew something bad was going on.
“They were coming and going at very odd hours of the night … I had suspected … perhaps they were selling drugs out of the house,” says a woman who also did not want to be identified.
Many reported what they saw to their homeowners association. They say police were monitoring the place for weeks.
“Next thing you know we had cop cars and helicopters all over the place,” said the man.
The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department says the La Quinta Police Department Special Enforcement Unit, enforcement unit served a warrant on the La Quinta home to follow up on an identity fraud investigation.
People who live there say the pair was living in the home without permission, rent free.
Police say 33-year-old Fernando De La Cruz and 26-year-old Johnny Sanchez of Desert Hot Springs were performing unlicensed car and home repairs, but during the work the pair stole the victim’s identity, and that’s not all police say they stole, police say they also recovered a stolen motorcycle, car parts and a loaded handgun.
Read more (Video):
Voluntary, Civic HOA works with city to create Special District for crime control
By contrast to mandatory HOAs serving private communities, neighborhood associations are voluntary HOAs with a civic purpose. Waco Downtown Neighborhood Association is one example of a civic association with a mission to serve its members by addressing its relatively high crime rate.
Because the Neighborhood Association does not have the authority to collect mandatory assessments, residents are considering the possibility of creating a Public Improvement District (PID) for the purpose of collecting taxes that would be used to fund additional police patrols.
This is yet another example of residents being expected to pay for a higher level of service from local police, in this case, daytime patrols to prevent crime that occurs while most residents are away from home at work.
The KWTX article states that “A PID is similar to a homeowners’ association but has more power,” but this statement is misleading.
A PID is a publicly chartered special tax district, while an HOA is a private corporation. See the section below the article for a comparison of a PID and an HOA.
Before the PID can be established, more than 50% of land or property owners (not registered voters) in the proposed district must agree to its creation. Developers can, and often do, create PIDs at the time they still own most of the land in the district.
In this case, property owners seek to create a PID in an existing neighborhood.
If more than 50% of property owners sign a petition, it is presented to City Council. Following a public hearing, the Council has 6 months to establish a resolution to create the PID and vote on the matter.
In short, a PID is a public-private initiative to create a mandatory taxing unit of city government to support additional public services and improvements.
Waco: Residents of one neighborhood consider PID to solve crime problem
By Ke’Sha Lopez | Posted: Mon 10:55 PM, Feb 26, 2018 | Updated: Tue 8:29 AM, Feb 27, 2018
WACO, Texas (KWTX) Continuously high crime rates have pushed the Waco Downtown Neighborhood Association to think outside the box when it comes to curbing the problem.
Over the past several years, according to the Waco Police Department’s statistics, the are from Waco Drive to Interstate 35 and from the Brazos River to 17th Street has ranked number two and sometimes number one as the zone with the highest occurrences.
These incidents range from drugs and assaults to vehicle and home burglaries.
Andrew Lopez, Downtown (Formerly Brazos) Neighborhood Association president said, many of these incidents happen between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. while people are at work or school.
To fix the problem he wants more police patrols.
He and others are discussing creating a new Public Improvement District or PID.
Read about Public Improvement Districts in Texas, and how they differ from HOAs: