Hiring private constables for subsidized housing linked to lower homicide rate


It appears that the new security policies of Northside Properties, owner of a large number of federally-subsidized houses, contributed greatly to crime reduction on the Northside during 2009.

The owner and manager of 324 units of low-income housing in California-Kirkbride, Perry Hilltop, Central Northside and Charles Street Valley, Northside Properties hired a private constable service in April 2008 to oversee the security of its properties. Since then crime has dropped substantially in these neighborhoods, leading to an overall slight drop in crime for the Northside.

616 Jacksonia Street, in the Central Northside, is one of Northside Properties’ 324 subsidized housing units. (Photo/Henry Clay Webster)

While what police refer to as part-one crimes, most of which are felonies, retreated only modestly in 2009 at 1 percent on the Northside, the area saw a whopping 40 percent reduction in homicides from a year earlier. This is on top of a 10 percent drop in part-one crimes the year before.

After having 13 reported homicides in 2008, a year where violence was up across the city, The Northside had just eight in 2009.

Police officers from Zone 1, which covers the entire Northside, stopped short of presenting a direct cause of the drop, but said directing patrols to high crime areas could have played a part.

“Honestly, I don’t want to speculate on the why crime is down,” Zone 1 Lt. Michael Piasecki said.

But based on city maps that show crime by voting district, it appears that much of the overall drop stems from reductions in neighborhoods where Northside Properties owns low-income housing.

This is significant because many of the homicides in prior years and large portions of the part-one crimes stemmed from areas with high concentrations of subsidized housing.

“Brighton Place, Brightridge, Charles Street, Alpine and Garfield — those are the main streets where we’ve seen dramatic drop offs in criminal activity,” said Antione Malloy, who owns Malloy Legal Service, the constable service in charge of the properties. “A month back then [in early 2008], we were generating 25 to 30 reports a month, and now we’re down to 10.”

The constable service provides several shifts of constables, armed with the right to carry out such police duties as serving warrants and making arrests, to keep an eye on housing units seven days a week.

When incidents such as domestic disputes or fights occur, constables try to “deescalate” the situation, and then they write a report for Northside Properties. Malloy also meets every week with members of the Northside Coalition for Fair Housing, which represents and provides social services to the tenants, to discuss the reports and problematic tenants.

Basically, the private constables provide more extensive monitoring than Zone 1 police can afford.

While Zone 1 police couldn’t break down crime rates by neighborhood for the entire year yet, The Northside Chronicle compared city maps measuring part-one crimes from May 2007 to April 2009.

According to these figures, Perry Hilltop saw a drop of over 25 percent from the previous year; Charles Street Valley’s part-one crimes dropped by half; California-Kirkbride remained roughly the same; and the Central Northside rose only slightly.

Interestingly enough, these drops were met with noticeable gains in the Mexican War Streets; the part of Perry Hilltop and Fineview surrounding the Federal Street Extension; and Allegheny Center — which had the largest gain in part-one crimes at about 40 percent.

Hiring the constables was the brainchild of Northside Properties owner Bob Mistick, who took over the business from his brother Tom in April 2008.

“I’m an old ‘60s radical,” said Bob Mistick. “It was within my values to conserve and improve these conditions, particularly the violence and the condition of the housing.”

After taking over from Tom, Bob helped the Northside Coalition for Fair Housing buy 56 percent of the housing stock. This allowed Bob, whose company acts as the general partner, to make decisions that would benefit tenants rather than shareholders, such as spending money on a private constable service or putting more profits into renovating units.

“I was uncomfortable paying out most of the money to investors. I thought that the majority of the limited investors should share my world view of putting money back into the housing,” said Bob, who prefers to make most of his money through his separate construction business.

“Since [Bob has] been here, things have improved tremendously,” Ronell Guy-Curtis, executive director of the Coalition, said.

Beside hiring the constables, she said Northside Properties, with support from the Coalition, has begun serving a greater number of eviction notices than they had in the past. “There were some people that we identified that were causing problems … If people have problems, then we ask them to find other housing.”

Guy-Curtis said that oftentimes, when men leave prison, they try to move in with vulnerable single mothers living in the housing. This often causes domestic problems.

Northisde Properties pays the Coalition to meet with every tenant at least four times a year. Coalition workers use the visit to counsel some women on how to get rid of troublemaking boyfriends and also ask tenants to report bad behavior by other tenants. If enough reports arise about a particular tenant, Northside Properties will evict the individual.

Influenced by a social worker in Los Angeles named Tanya Tully, who has spent her career working with low-income people in transitional housing, Bob said that stopping the violence is only the first step. The second step is to stabilize housing by renovating units in disrepair, and the third step is to “focus on people and social issues.”

As an example of the third step, Bob envisions a program where he and his employees will help tenants clean up their houses. The idea is to teach successful life lessons so tenants can improve their quality of life.

In the future, Bob said Northside Properties may get rid of some of the housing that isn’t suitable for family living, such as the multi-family units in Charles Street Valley, and rebuild new single-family units in California-Kirkbride.

As a sign that he is making headway in improving housing conditions, Bob said that the 324 units were given an overall rating of 60 out of 100 by the government’s REAC property rating formula a few years ago. Last year, they received a 73; and at the end of this month, he’s hoping to score in the 80s.



A statement by Greg Spicer,

president of the Central Northside Neighborhood Council

We are encouraged by Bob Mistick’s efforts to improve conditions in his many properties throughout the Central Northside and neighboring communities. For years, these properties have been the locus of many serious problems in our neighborhood and we are heartened to hear that the new Northside Properties is finally working toward reducing criminal and anti-social behavior linked to these units. We also applaud any efforts to help raise our poorest residents from poverty by providing them with resources rather than simply housing them and collecting rent.

Although the constable services for NSP may have played a role in crime reduction in various neighborhoods, the reduction in criminal activity in the Central Northside neighborhood is also due to the efforts of the CNNC and many of the citizens here who have actively fought for a safer community over the past couple of years. The CNNC has installed surveillance cameras in “hot spots” throughout the neighborhood; engaged in a comprehensive community planning process which allowed us to map and better understand criminal activity; worked to close a notorious nuisance bar on Monterey Street; and have repeatedly met with the mayor, law enforcement and other city officials about how to stymie criminal activity throughout the neighborhood. 

Greg Spicer, CNNC President



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