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Repeat police calls could trigger fines

Repeat police calls could trigger fines

  • Updated

VALPARAISO —The city could end up fining the owners of properties that require frequent police calls for improper behavior.

City Attorney Patrick Lyp introduced a proposed ordinance Monday night aimed at nudging property owners to be more responsible about the behavior of tenants and visitors.

Join Tristan DeFord, Jami Rieck, and Nancy Zakutanksky on a shift working for Superior Ambulance in Merrillville.

Police were called to an apartment complex 172 times in 2020, Lyp said.

“The police department is not a security company,” he said.

When officers respond to a single location repeatedly, that can lead to burnout, complacency and frustration, which deters the professional response according to the department’s standards, Police Chief Jeff Balon said.

“That’s taxing on the officers, the same mindset philosophy as false alarms,” he said.

The proposed ordinance is to hold the owners or management accountable, Balon said.

Balon gave the example of officers spending 40 hours responding to one location. “We are talking hundreds of thousands of dollars in terms of man-hours to respond to that location,” he said, and that’s not counting supervisors’ time or the fuel to get officers to that location so many times.

Owners of chronic disorderly properties would be fined $500 for the third call in a month’s time, $1,000 for the fourth call and $7,5000 for the fifth call, which is the maximum the city can assess, Lyp said.

“The fine needs to be meaningful but not punitive,” Lyp said. “The goal is to reduce some of the fatigue officers encounter” as well as the impact on neighbors.

After two visits in a month’s time, the property owner or manager would be summoned to a meeting with police brass to talk about the problem.

The city’s Board of Works would be empowered to reduce or eliminate fines if a good faith effort to reduce the problem is shown. That could be done by tweaking management or the way tenants are screened, Lyp said.

“This has been a concern of mine for many years,” Councilwoman Diana Reed, D-1st, said.

She suggested distinguishing between apartment complexes with a large number of units and just a few, which Lyp promised to incorporate into the revisions he’s making before the council next considers the proposal.

Councilman Evan Costas, R-at-large, said landlords could add language in the lease to protect themselves from tenants who behave badly. “You only have so much control, especially when you’re renting to university students,” he said.

“Obviously hotels are a little different,” Balon said, although some have long-term residents.

The ordinance would apply to all properties in the city, not just residential ones, Lyp said.

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