New crime-free program marks a first for Canada

A program that has worked successfully to curb crime in Chilliwack apartment buildings is coming to a condo complex near you.

Dave Serblowski has spearheaded a crime-free condo program that is coming to Chilliwack. Some of the things he wants to see gone in current condos are thick and/or tall shrubs and hedges

A program that has worked successfully to curb crime in Chilliwack apartment buildings is coming to a condo complex near you.

Dave Serblowski is launching the Crime-Free Condominium program in May, using the Crime-Free Multi-Housing program as its template.

The latter program came online in 2005, using a multi-phase plan to educate apartment owners and managers.

The first phase is educational, with a focus on community and police working together.

“We look at drugs and illegal activity within buildings, and we teach them proper screening techniques for tenants, which is super important,” Serblowski said. “A lot of them don’t do it. They just let people in, and then they’ve got problems. So we teach them how to screen those tenants super well, and we bring in the Residential Tenancy Branch to speak to them about the legalities of landlord and tenancy agreements.”

Phase two looks at the building itself, with Serblowski conducting a thorough safety/security assessment. Everything from overgrown outdoor shrubbery and hedging to window and patio locks is analyzed.

“There are several things that we look at,” said Serblowski, who’s been running Crime-Free Multi-Housing since 2008. “On the inside we’re looking at things like eye-viewers and striker plates on the doors and proper lighting throughout the building.”

Yolanda Chorus had big problems in her Abbotsford-based Cedar Green Apartments, before signing on to Crime-Free Multi-Housing in 2007.

In the first year of the program, she noted calls to police dropping by an astounding 80 per cent.

“It was mostly drug related issues, and that’s why the screening process is the biggest thing,” she said. “You’ve got to get good quality tenants and make sure you’re very firm on the rules and regs, with zero tolerance. For the people in your building who aren’t law breakers, you help to give them a sense of safety.”

Chorus said it was a lot of work getting her building up to snuff, but it was well worth the trouble.

“The program is only as effective as the person using it,” she said. “If you’re using the tools, you get remarkable results. If you’re not using them you won’t. It worked for me because I was 100 per cent committed.”

Of the 186 apartment buildings in Chilliwack, 33 are currently participating in the Crime-Free Multi-Housing program.

There are 400-500 condominium complexes in towns, with more on the way.

Serblowski’s Crime-Free Condominium program will be the first of its kind in Canada, though it has existed for some time in the United States.

“The big difference between the two programs is you’re now dealing with individual owners and stratas and strata management companies,” Serblowski said. “It’s the owners that we really want to focus on, because they’re the ones renting out their units without proper screening and putting this deviant behaviour into the buildings.”

One of the biggest things Serblowski will tell them is to put everything on paper.

“I’ve had people come in crying about a bad tenant they can’t get rid of, and because it was a friend they didn’t get anything signed,” he said. “You’ve got to get a contract signed right from the start. People who are doing illegal activities don’t want a paper trail. You need that paper trail.”

At an introductory forum on May 9 — noon to 5 p.m., upstairs at the Landing Leisure Centre — Serblowski will be joined by a strata lawyer from White Rock.

“We’ll do a presentation on what the program will look like, giving attendees enough info to tweak their interest and get them back for a proper training session,” he said. “It’s been a five-year process, and now we’re in position to implement the program. I’m feeling good about it, and I’m hoping the response will be as good, if not better, than what we had with the Crime-Free Multi-Housing program.”

The cost of the forum will be $10 per person.

For more info, contact Serblowski at 604-393-3006.

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