Landlords cut rent deal for police officers

UNIA hopes more cops will move to University neighborhoods.

Alex Holmquist

A shared concern for livability issues in neighborhoods near the University has prompted a group of landlords to extend a generous offer to University of Minnesota police officers. On Tuesday, the University Neighborhood Improvement Association voted in favor of offering police officers a 50 percent discount on rent when they live in neighborhoods near the University. The offer would only apply to housing owned by participating landlords in the UNIA. UNIA Executive Director William Wells said the organizationâÄôs intention is not to obtain âÄúfree securityâÄù but to improve the livability in the neighborhood and promote a sense of leadership in the community. âÄúPolice officers in general make strong citizens,âÄù Wells said. âÄúThey can be community leaders and participate in neighborhood groups.âÄù University police Chief Greg Hestness said the offer could be beneficial as long as landlords and police officers have a clear understanding of what the program entails. âÄú[Landlords] need to be clear about what they expect,âÄù Hestness said. University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said that while it is an appreciable offer, he is not sure how many police officers will participate in the program. âÄúObviously, the scenario has to be right and somebody has to be looking for housing,âÄù Miner said. James De Sota, neighborhood coordinator for the Southeast Como Neighborhood Improvement Association, said UNIAâÄôs offer shows that they share residentsâÄô concerns. âÄúIt shows that thereâÄôs a shared concern by the landlords and owners who think that safety is a paramount issue,âÄù De Sota said. He added that there is concern among residents that police officers no longer live in the metro area near the University. âÄúThere is a different level of understanding you get when you live someplace,âÄù he said. De Sota said having more police officers who live in the neighborhoods would also provide residents with a greater sense of security. âÄúKnowing that the people who are protecting and serving them are their neighbors makes a big impact on the surrounding community,âÄù De Sota said. Hestness agreed that having officers live in the neighborhoods around the University could be beneficial to both officers and students. âÄúOur officers would be interacting, perhaps, with students in a different way than on duty, so that could all be to the benefit of getting to know one another a little more,âÄù Hestness said. Wells added that he feels the problems in the neighborhoods are not because of student resident behavior, but a result of gang members and other criminals who come into the neighborhoods and victimize students. Wells said he received commitments from many members of the UNIA but that not all landlords will be participating in the program.