Crime Free Lifestyles

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After a rash of vandalisms and increased drug activity, one Montrose neighborhood says it's ready to fight back.

Residents in the Fox Meadows subdivision say their neighborhood means a lot to them.

"We've all worked very hard to purchase the homes that we do own here," said Ken Holyfield, a Fox Meadows resident and HOA board member. "We have a vested interest in maintaining a quality neighborhood."

But they say problems with vandalism and meth, that escalated into the fire bombing of a police car, threatened that mission. They say fortunately for them, a sergeant with the Montrose Police Department lives in their neighborhood, and even better, he had an answer to their problems.

"What this program does is bring the responsibility of having a crime free community back on the residents or the property owners," said Sergeant Paul Eller with the Montrose Police Department.

Sergeant Eller helped bring the Crime Free Housing program to Montrose in 2006. Since then, the program has been implemented in several apartment complexes, a few single family homes, and two hotels. He says the results law enforcement has seen are impressive.

"We reduced calls for service by fourteen percent and criminal activity by twelve percent," said Sergeant Eller. "On those properties our arrests increased twenty-eight percent, and we've had sixty-three criminal evictions."

But this is the first time the program has been adopted by an entire community.

"Because we have had an increase in crime in the neighborhood, it seemed like something that was reasonable and feasible for us to implement," said Holyfield.

To become Crime Free Lifestyles certified, the development must meet several criteria. Home owners have to go through specialized training taught by local law enforcement. Houses must meet certain requirements like having deadbolts, having adequate lighting, and having clear views from all windows. Once a neighborhood is certified, property managers are required to do some extra digging before new tenants can move in.

"A lot of people that are going to be problems probably never come into our office because they know we're going to do criminal background checks and credit checks," said Ben Alexander, a property manager with Colorado West Property Management.

Montrose Police and residents say they're not the only ones noticing the positive change the program brings.

"Now other agencies are starting to call us, wanting to know about our successes," said Sergeant Eller. "They want to have this program developed in their communities."

Sergeant Eller will be meeting with the Grand Junction Police Department and the Mesa County Sheriff's Office later this month, and hopes this program could bring the kind of change to the Grand Valley he says it's had on his community.

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