Chronic problem property ordinance curbing issues at apartments

South Bend, Ind. Four months after a new ordinance went into effect, South Bend police say no places in the city have made it onto the 'problem property' list.

On Oct. 15, the common council implemented an ordinance to help reduce the high number of police and code calls the city receives for certain addresses.

Under the measure, properties with 50 or fewer units are allowed up to five calls within 60 days.

And, apartment complexes with 51 or more units are allowed up to 12 calls over a period of 90 days, before being placed on the list.

During a council committee meeting Thursday, South Bend police said no properties have racked up enough calls since October to be put on the problem properties list. But, four are close.

Among them is the Miami Hills Apartments on High Street, which police say has been on their radar for quite some time.

Last year, residents living at the neighboring Southmore Mutual Housing Corporation say they had bullets from Miami Hills end up in their homes at least three times.

"We're worried about what's going to happen in the spring," said Southmore Property Manager Terry Wruble. "It's almost been a year now since we had the first shots passed through our units."

Wruble says issues at Miami Hills have died down since the ordinance passed in October, but the colder weather is likely playing a role.

But, police say there have been some definite improvements.

A large number of overgrown plants have been cleared from the fence line. And, the fence itself has been repaired. The owner also added additional lighting and a new surveillance system to the property.

"At night time, it's so bright to us now it's like a baseball stadium at night," said Patrolman Keenan Lane, who oversees the ordinance for the SBPD.

Miami Hills management has also evicted 20 percent of its residents because of problems they were causing. Police say they've made six arrests on the property since November.

"Within six to nine months, I'd like to see a significant decrease," Lane said. "And, we're starting to get the problems out and hopefully we'll start seeing that compound for better things to happen here in the future."

Lane says the number of calls at other addresses police usually frequent have also decreased.

Council members say they're encouraged to see no properties on the nuisance list within the first four months of implementation. Tim Scott says that's evidence the ordinance is working the way they hoped.

"You like the fact that, at this point -- this is four months into it -- they could be on the list," Scott said. "But, they're not on the list yet."

But, people living at Southmore say they're still alarmed by the number of calls coming from Miami Hills. And, they're hoping the council and police continue to hold landlords accountable.

"We're worried we're going to start having repeats of these things and nothing is going to happen strong enough to stop it again," Wruble said.

The council plans to get quarterly updates from the police department on the chronic problem property ordinance.

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