| Courts |

Carrollton Trying to Force Apartment Complexes To Reduce Crime. Property Owners Are Fighting Back

Last June, the Carrollton City Council passed a measure aimed at cleaning up apartment complexes in the city that had become magnets for crime. The ordinance set out a number of very specific requirements on things like fencing and landscaping, but the crux of the measure was the crime index, a number assigned to every apartment development in the city.

The crime index is simply a number: the ratio of police service calls and arrests per 100 units, calculated at six-month intervals. Complexes whose scores are above a certain number (not set out in the ordinance but calculated from time to time by the city manager based on the average crime rate at apartment complexes) would be forced to enroll in the city's "Mandatory Crime Reduction Program."

That's the part that irks apartment owners. As part of the program, complexes whose crime index is too high are required to post signs alerting residents and would-be tenants of the designation, make various improvements to the property, and pay a $500 fee, with additional penalties of up to $2,500 per day. A slew of complexes appealed their inclusion in the program to the city. When those appeals were denied -- the ordinance only allows the appeals board to determine whether an appellant's score is, in fact, higher than the threshold -- three complexes sued the city.

The most detailed suit, first reported by Courthouse News, was brought by an investment group that owns Carrollton's Sevilla Apartments.

Adam Sparks, a San Francisco-based investor who owns apartments across the country, wrote in an affidavit that the requirements of the crime reduction program are misguided and unfair. For one, the ordinance singles out apartment complexes from all other commercial and residential developments. In addition, the way the crime index is calculated, by simply including all calls for service or arrests whether or not they were preventable, is arbitrary and capricious. There's also no proof that the required signage and expensive improvements would do anything to reduce crime, not to mention that the appeals process is a joke.

All this amounts to a violation of apartment owners' due process and property rights under the Texas Constitution, the lawsuit argues. Whether that's the case will be up to a Dallas County district judge, but the ordinance certainly seems less like a way to reduce crime as to hassle apartment owners. A city spokeswoman declined to comment due to pending litigation.

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