In West St. Paul, don’t call the cops too often

The word has gone out to the citizens who rent in West St. Paul: Don’t call the cops too much.

Residents of a 30-unit apartment complex are being thrown out because too many police calls came from residents there. Not all residents, probably, but everyone goes because the city has yanked the rental permit of the building owner.

In a week in which a crime victim is being pilloried in St. Paul, West St. Paul literally is blaming the victims.

“Revoking a rental license is not a process we take lightly,” Jim Hartshorn, West St. Paul’s community development director, tells the Star Tribune. “It’s an option that we have for ongoing problem properties [whose owners] refuse to listen to us.”

That, of course, is a legitimate gripe between city officials and an uncaring landlord. The good tenants, however, do the suffering.

But the city had a heart, it won’t make the residents homeless until the weather warms and the kids are out of school.

West St. Paul allowed a maximum of 15 police calls a year, but didn’t include medical or domestic disturbance calls in the total. So if you’re a 16th crime victim in a year, do you call the cops and risk being homeless? Or do you let it slide and keep a roof over your head?

Unlike people who own single-family homes, tenants are essentially held responsible for their neighbors in West. St. Paul.

But the city had previously yanked the welcome mat for people on government assistance.

A year ago, it passed an ordinance prohibiting people who get government rental assistance and support services from living in the city’s apartments unless they’re already residing there.

An attorney for the landlord says that two problem tenants have been removed, but getting rid of bad tenants takes time. But the question remains: Why do the good tenants have to pay for that problem with their home?

Meanwhile, county officials say while they expect many tenants will turn to the county’s emergency shelter services, it can’t even accommodate the people who are already in the system.

Archive: Cities trying to block poor, disabled from moving to town (NewsCut)

  • Is this our Friday “feel good” story, because this is utter BS from WSP.

    • AmiSchwab

      now i know why i never went to st. paul

  • jon

    I have a friend who is a landlord for some duplexes in minneapolis… he apparently gets notified by the city every time there is a police report filed that involves his property (calls from his property, calls about his property…)

    Any criminal activity on his property is terms for eviction according to the lease (fairly standard, and was in all the leases I’ve signed as well) Calling the cops is asking them to find criminal activity… and he has acted on at least one of those reports, evicting people for criminal activity…

    Then there is the disincentive to call police given the recent string of high profile shootings…
    Then there is the historical disincentive to call the police because anyone looking hard enough at you can probably find a law you are breaking, so inviting that attention to yourself is rarely a good idea…

    All of these things added up makes me wonder how people can still ask “why didn’t they call the police?”

    I was on a jury recently, and during deliberations, one of my fellow jurors kept asking that question… why didn’t the witness call the police if she really saw what she said she saw… the question blows me away…

    • Mike

      All this also makes me wonder why anyone would want to own rental property. I’d have to be making an awful lot of money to want to deal with either dysfunctional tenants or the police.

      • jon

        there is a lot of money to be had from property rental.

        my friend suggests that he is at a point where one unit in each of his duplexes is paying the mortgage, insurance, tax and repairs, and the other is paying for him to manage the mortgage, insurance, tax and repairs which only takes a couple of days a month of his time.

        • Mike

          I don’t doubt that, but I’ve known various people who do it on a small scale, and it just seems to be the source of many headaches. The thought of dealing with bad tenants and the cops makes a normal job seem not so bad to me. Vive la difference.

          The intensive management that many properties require, however, gives me a lot of perspective as to why affordable housing is an issue. No one is going to want to do this job for peanuts.

          • jon

            That’s why we have slumlords, far more profit to be had for far less work if you don’t bother dealing with tenants and or cops.

            Heck the more you deal with tenants and police the less passive the income really is.

      • I’m guessing it because there’s good money in it.

  • MikeB

    Character is defined by what you do when you have power over others.

  • Dan

    Same city that made the news for threatening to use a “nuisance” ordinance to ban a homeowner from her property for a year. They ended up buying the property from her instead.

    • Ben

      That was considered illegal theft of someone else’s property on the basis of racial and housing discrimination. The city simply cannot do that.

  • Ben

    This reeks on the grounds of a massive housing discrimination lawsuit against the city of West Saint Paul. Federal civil rights statuses prohibits this type of behavior in public based on the US Fair Housing Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1965, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Somehow, the cities across Minnesota including West Saint Paul think that federal civil rights laws don’t apply to certain groups of people in the community, and thus they make their own rules by driving protected classes of residents out their homes and out of their sights. I don’t like it. I think its disgusting what our cities are doing to the poor, especially when we have a growing homeless population in Minnesota.