Campaign to clean up rental properties - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Campaign to clean up rental properties

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SPRING VALLEY, Calif. (CBS 8) - For those who live near them, crime-ridden apartment complexes can make daily unsettling and even scary. But the East County Public Safety Task Force works to make communities safer by cleaning up those nuisance properties.

For Pat Case and her neighbors, living next to one Spring Valley apartment complex was an embarrassment.

"They had people having sex in their front yard, doing drugs in their front yard," Pat said.

When burglars living in that complex broke into her home and stole Pat's jewelry, she called for help. County Supervisor Dianne Jacob unleashed the power of the East County Public Safety Task Force.

According to Sheriff Bill Gore, a bullet flew through a wall and wounded a sleeping eight-year-old boy, and enough was enough.

"A one-, two-bedroom apartment had 21 tenants inside it. It was so bad that San Miguel Fire wouldn't respond to the property without a police escort. There's something wrong with that," Sheriff Gore said.

The crime-free multi-housing program keeps track of calls for service and how troubled properties drain resources.

"In 2009 we are up to nearly 600 calls, a dramatic increase. In fact it's a 123 percent increase," Sheriff Gore said.

After a complex is identified as a nuisance, the owner and property manager are given a tough choice -- comply or face charges.

"You can go to jail or you can participate with law enforcement. Well guess what, they decided to take the course," Supervisor Jacob said.

Along with eight hours of crime prevention training, the property owners allow for an inspection that leads to more public lighting, less graffiti and crime.

In Spring Valley's case, it was a neighborhood turnaround that started with one phone call from Pat Case.

"That takes a lot of guts, that takes a lot of courage and she's the real hero," Supervisor Jacob said.

"I'm not a hero. The only thing I did was organize a neighborhood watch. My neighbors are heroes. The sheriff's department is a hero," Pat said.

So far, six properties in the East County have agreed to turn things around.

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