Security costs high for HAJ
By bob okon email@example.com December 14, 2012 8:00PM
Updated: January 17, 2013 6:24AM
Housing officials acknowledge they have had crime problems at the Fairview apartments but say they have to get a handle on security costs there.
The Housing Authority of Joliet could pay as much as $100,000 this year to off-duty police officers to provide extra security at the housing complex that lines Englewood Avenue on the northeast end of the city.
“It should not be our primary responsibility to police that area,” HAJ Commissioner Tony Jerisha said.
Jerisha is a former Joliet police officer. He said HAJ should approach the Joliet Police Department regarding policing of Fairview and the surrounding neighborhood.
HAJ is taking a harder look at its finances in light of recent pressure by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on the local agency to get a tighter control of its costs.
HAJ paid more than $80,000 through September for off-duty Joliet police to work special assignment at Fairview.
“It’s a tremendous amount of money that we’re spending,” Commissioner Patrick Asher noted.
Those costs tend to go down after the summer, said Mark Jakielski, chief operating officer for housing at HAJ. Even so, he said, the year-end bill for hiring Joliet police to work Fairview could be as high as $100,000.
“It escalates throughout the summer,” Jakielski told the board. “Without a police presence there, it’s pretty hard to maintain control.”
He said HAJ had to deal with shootings at Fairview in the summer. And, although crime tends to subside when the weather cools off, there have been about five break-ins at Fairview apartments in the last three weeks, Jakielski said.
“We have noticed that we have had an uptick in break-ins,” he told the board. “That’s probably because of Christmas.”
HAJ for several years has had plans to demolish Fairview and replace it with a mixed-income subdivision as was done when Poole Gardens was replaced with Liberty Meadow Estates. The plan was put on hold, however, when HUD questioned the motives for demolishing Fairview at the same time it began to challenge the city of Joliet’s motives for taking over Evergreen Terrace.
Despite the federal housing agency’s previous suspicions of the Fairview demolition plan, a HUD team that reviewed HAJ operations in recent months told the board that it should demolish Fairview. The HUD team primarily pointed to the physical condition of Fairview when making the recommendation.