Tackling drugs

Landlords discuss meth problem

Local law enforcement officers have called her a guardian angel, but apartment complex manager Jackie Urie says she's merely serious about stemming criminal behavior in Craig.

Although the new manager at Timberglen Apartments has already evicted eight tenants, she's not received calls from other area landlords asking for references on the former tenants.

"Where are these people going?" she asked Thursday night at a meeting of the Yampa Valley Landlord's Association.

"We have to only rent to people who qualify."

Landlords could help curtail what law enforcement has identified as a drug epidemic in Northwest Colorado if they took care to investigate the rental history of prospective tenants. Requiring background checks also could save landlords money in the long run.

It would save not having to deal with apartments where drugs have been used or manufactured, landlord advocates said at the meeting.

And, Urie should know.

In a sweeping investigation of the Timberglen Apartments, new part owner Tom Kremmer recognized apartment units that had experienced "obvious drug use."

Ten of the units in the 54-unit apartment complex are up for a complete overhaul, he said.

"I've been around the apartment business," Kremmer said. "My goal is to get this cleaned in a year."

Law enforcement has openly identified methamphetamine use as the drug of choice in Craig. Studies are beginning to show that effects of its manufacture and use in the home can be harmful for occupants.

But landlords, tenants and the general public can be proactive if drug activity is suspected, speakers said at the meeting.

Landlords legally can require background checks of prospective tenants.

They also can evict a tenant if drug activity is suspected, provided those terms are written into a lease agreement.

People can keep a journal of vehicle activity and log descriptions of suspicious activity that can be turned into police, said Dale Secules, an officer with the Craig Police Department.

"If you have information, I need to hear it the same day if possible," he told the gathering of about 20.

"Sometimes the information can be a small piece of the puzzle, but it may be the start of making a bigger bust."

John Barr, manager of Golden Arms Apartments said becoming a part of the landlord association might help landlords seeking to reduce criminal activity on their property.

Group members take turns patrolling members' properties on weekends and some holidays. Regular meetings also offer tips on preventing crime and outline landlords' rights.

"I think we all need to stand against it if we want to stop it," he said. "The police can't do it by themselves."

Thursday's meeting drew the largest group to date, Urie said.

But she wagered that the drug problem couldn't be tackled successfully unless all of the area's property owners were onboard with restricting crime.

"We just won't deal with it, period," she said of allowing crime at Timberglen. "Zero tolerance."

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at ahatten@craigdailypress.com

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