Why Tolerate a Bad Apple

posted in: Ideas to Boost Equity | 3

It used to be like the movie “New Jack City.” A powerful and dangerous individual, a dictator of sorts, would take over a neighborhood and embarrass community leaders thus undermining their authority. These individuals would then terrorize the vulnerable residents into silence.  Today the ability to hold an unprotected neighborhood hostage is weakened due to newer forms of communication – specifically email.

Just recently the people of Egypt used the Internet to organize themselves and overthrow their dictator.  If they can organize on such a larger – then surely inner city landlords can organize the people on their block.

Just last Saturday, I received a phone call at 11:45pm from one of my tenants.  She was scared because there were ten guys beating on one guy in front of the house across the street.  New tenants had moved into this rental house and the tenants brought what appeared to be child abuse, domestic violence, and drug selling with them.

My tenant and neighbors had told me about these guys before this event and we were already documenting their public transgressions, but now my tenant was worry there would be gun fire – and sure enough, there was.

I immediately mobilized the neighbors the next day.  I gathered their emails and started collecting their versions of what happened.  I also emailed the county assessor’s office and got the property owners contact information sent to me the next day.  My plan was to take a group stance against this tenant so no one would fear retaliation.

Using Facebook, I was able to learn a little about the property owner before I called.  I wanted to feel out how he would respond to our complaint and to give him heads up that a letter was coming.

Turns out he’d already received a phone call from a neighbor, but when he confronted his tenants, they denied there was even an incident.  He asked for my help with providing third-party information so he could take action.

By Wednesday, I had pulled together all the details collected from the neighbors into a letter and emailed it to the owner.  The letter was a recount of what really happened and along with a gently statement that we were holding him responsible for everything that happened on his property – and yes even gun fire.

On Friday, he sent a thank you email and said he would use the letter.

The following Saturday, his tenants were very quiet.  Apparently they received the message loud and clear.  They now know that their neighbors communicate and will mobilize against them if needed.  They also know we will disturb their landlord if/when they disturb us.

We will see how long their quiet trend lasts, but one thing is for sure, the neighbors feel bolder than ever.  They took the anger from the gun shots and turned it into a letter that got quick results.  They were also able to overcome the fear of retaliation by contributing details anonymously.

It’s been a long fight to bring our neighborhood to where it is now and none of us are going to surrender it to rowdy newcomers.  We will no longer allow a few bad apples to spoil the bunch.

Please share  your neighbor-power story.

For more information on tips to being an inner city landlord, read these articles:

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3 Responses

  1. Good job, Al, on mobilizing your tenants and neighbors to combat crime, and recounting this for other to read. Hopefully this will inspire other landlords to take action too.

  2. Derrick

    Great story and thanks for sharing. Still much work to do in the area but I think if we work together we can get more of it done a lot faster!

  3. Al Williamson

    Roger that! I’m reaching out to all Oak Park landlords hoping to network us together so we can communicate and coordinate. I would appreciate your help. Thanks

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