MARC CHASE: Mansards reality should match the facade

2013-07-04T00:00:00Z MARC CHASE: Mansards reality should match the facadeBy Marc Chase marc.chase@nwi.com, (219) 662-5330 nwitimes.com

Fancy window dressing doesn't matter if beyond the curtains lies an atrocity masked by colorful draperies.

Over the years, Griffith learned this lesson with the massive 900-plus-unit, 3,000-resident Mansards Apartments complex. "Learned" is the key word. After years of reported gang and drug activity in the complex, town government, complex managers and police have been stepping out of the fantasy and taking educated steps to fix the problem based on empirical reality.

It's a strategy worth noting by any of the region municipalities that struggle with crime-ridden sections of town.

When preparing to move to the region a decade ago with then twin infant boys, I lacked the financial means to be a homeowner and had been an apartment dweller for years.

An online listing and brochure for the Mansards showed some nice window dressing for what appeared to be a serene, resort-like apartment complex, complete with pools, tennis courts and courtyard amenities.

But the vehement warnings of my soon-to-be co-workers who were familiar with the complex painted a different picture.

Griffith police know through their own calls the complex has a history as a haven for gangs and drug dealing, all existing beneath the veneer of its resort-like design. Town officials claim past police administrations did little to combat this problem -- until now.

The police department's new chief, Greg Mance, has taken a special interest in the Mansards, noting not just that it has been a hotbed for crime but that it could be a great residential asset to the town if cleaned up.

The department is now working with Mansards managers, who have pledged regular audits of lease agreements to ensure those actually living in the units are the ones listed on the leases.

Managers of the complex point out this cooperation isn't completely new. Crime rates there have been on the decline for the past few years.

But ask any Griffith beat cop, and you will learn a big problem at the Mansards over the years has been criminally minded folks crashing in the apartments of actual lease holders.

Mance said past cultures of police leadership leaned toward ignoring -- rather than facing -- the Mansards issue.

Drive into the complex at any time today, and you're likely to see at least one or two squad cars patrolling. I've seen it myself on a few random occasions within the past couple of weeks.

But even better than the police presence is the use of empirical data to shape policing strategy there. Griffith police are partnering with the Center for Urban Regional Excellence at Indiana University Northwest to map crime and adjust patrols to actual needs.

With this type of smart approach, the Mansards reality might actually match the veneer.

Investigative Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 662-5330 or marc.chase@nwi.com. The opinions are the writer's.

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