Pause enforcement & study the impact on renters - Crime Free Ordinance in St. Louis Park

Pause enforcement & study the impact on renters - Crime Free Ordinance in St. Louis Park

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St. Louis Park Community Housing Team started this petition to thom.thommiller@gmail.com and

Problem
St. Louis Park Mayor, City Council, City Manager, and City Housing Staff:


As St. Louis Park residents, we are very concerned about the negative unintended effects the Crime Free Ordinance is having on our community. This ordinance does not represent the St. Louis Park that prides itself on being "a place for all people." It instead does the opposite by placing a different set of rules and harsher burdens on tenants than on homeowners.

For the following reasons, we are advising an immediate moratorium on the enforcement of the Crime Free Ordinance and lease addendum requirements until it can be reviewed in detail and
revised or repealed.

  • This ordinance violates tenants’ due process rights because tenants can potentially be evicted immediately without an appeal.
  • Absent a systematic follow up with landlords after the first Disorderly Use notice is issued, it is not known how many renters are being informally evicted from enforcement of this ordinance.
  • Despite the state statute exempting domestic violence situations, it’s uncertain that this exception is being granted in all instances that pertain. This places an additional barrier on victims of domestic violence in contacting the police department for potentially life-threatening situations.
  • People are vulnerable to being forced out of their homes for petty misdemeanor allegations- offenses that are typically resolved by paying a fine, not by being evicted from their homes.
  • While this ordinance was designed to reduce crime and encourage safe living environments for residents of St. Louis Park, the negative consequences are likely disproportionately impacting people of color and low- income households because of the well-documented demographic disparities between renters and homeowners.
  • We understand that enforcement of this ordinance contributes to tenants’ fear of contacting the Police Department in times of need for emergency assistance, response to domestic abuse, or a crime being committed. This breakdown of trust between tenants and the police does not reflect the community policing model the City of St. Louis Park aspires to uphold.
  • The ordinance, as written, includes an extremely broad definition of “criminal activity,” and no explanation as to how the police exercise discretion in deciding to issue notifications to landlords – both of which create the potential for abuse and overreach, while providing no guarantee that the ordinance is being enforced in the manner described in the FAQ’s on the city’s website.


Solution
We recommend that while a moratorium is in place, the Crime Free Ordinance be evaluated by an outside party such as Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, to determine the effects of its enforcement and provide recommendations on repeal/reform. Moving forward, we suggest the following:

  • The ordinance should be evaluated in detail by an outside party, including the Crime Free/Drug Free training the city requires of landlords.
  • This evaluation should include gathering community input from those affected by the ordinance (tenants, landlords, neighbors and other rental housing stakeholders).
  • An entity (oversight committee) that is comprised of staff outside the Police Department, and community stakeholders should oversee the implementation of the ordinance before any notices are issued to landlords and tenants.
  • Tenants should be granted their right of due process to appeal enforcement of the ordinance.
  • The ordinance should clearly state that only crimes committed at the property by tenants should be considered.
  • Institute a proactive system for social service intervention/support for tenants to address issues and grievances prior to eviction.
  • We advise enactment of Just Cause Eviction protections for tenants to prevent these and other common instances of involuntary displacement from rental housing.

At this time, there does not appear to be public data to support that The Crime Free Ordinance has reduced crime in St. Louis Park. At best, this is a crime displacement ordinance, forcing residents out of their homes without allowing due process. If a person commits a crime, there is a law enforcement system in place for that. Evicting a family should not be the response in any
case.

St. Louis Park knows well how disruptive and damaging it is to children and families to be forced to leave their schools, friends, neighborhoods and support systems.
We ask that the City of St. Louis Park act in the best interest of its residents and place an immediate moratorium on the Crime Free Ordinance so that the true impact of the ordinance can be analyzed by an independent agency.

Thank you for your immediate consideration to this matter affecting our community.
Sincerely,


The St. Louis Community Housing Team

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