It doesn't appear that large apartment complexes in Kent will be forced to hire on-site security personnel any time soon.
Kent City Council members listened to a presentation from Kent Police Chief Michelle Lee and Safety Director William Lillich Wednesday about the idea, which council had asked city administrators to review and bring back to council for possible action.
After the presentation, council took no formal action that would have forced apartment complexes to hire on-site security staff. But they did vote to keep the issue open for possible future action.
The issue stems from the fact three different apartment complexes are under construction and expect to add a total 1,728 new student housing beds by the start of the fall semester. And those are just the beds under construction now, which are: University Oaks, planned 520; The Province at Kent, 596; and University Edge, 612.
Those new beds could mean a lot more calls for Kent's police.
Lee said that some of Kent's larger apartment complexes do hire on-site security — some times in the form of off-duty Kent police — but that the result has been a mixed bag in terms of easing the burden on the police department.
She said in some cases security personnel can handle an issue without assistance from police.
"They do take on the majority of the nuisance calls; for example if a party is out of control or someone is trespassing," Lee said. "The residents call the security company first. They will check things out and if we are needed then we will respond. It doesn’t always negate the fact that we would be coming out anyway."
Lillich said whether private security personnel are effective depends on the quality of the security contractor. Sometimes they can cause more problems for police.
He said the more critical component in curbing crime at apartment complexes is the relationship between the owners and the police department. That and the city's nuisance property ordinance, which was passed a few years ago and includes escalating fines for addresses that have multiple criminal violations in a set time period.
Lee said such citatations are helpful because property owners are notified when a citation is issued.
"It really comes down to what course management has taken and what they’re going to do about it," she said.
Kent Law Director Jim Silver said there is little precedent showing either cities that have required on-site security at apartment complexes or such mandates that have been challenged and upheld by a court.
"Security personnel don’t have arrest powers," he said. "So they’re not going to relieve your police department of that responsibility. They have the power of persuasion to some extent.
"In many situations ... They're the ones making the call to police instead of someone else," Silver said. "Whether that helps or doesn’t help, I can’t answer that."
In 2011, Kent's largest apartment complexes accounted for 1,426 — or 7.3 percent — of the Kent Police Department's 19,470 total calls for service.
Kent City Councilman Garret Ferrara suggested the city wait and compare the 2011 numbers to 2012 before taking action.
"We don’t know how many calls are actually prevented by the places that actually have security there," Ferrara said. "So I would suggest if we’re concerned with the increase in the number of rental units, that if our calls go up significantly lets come back and try to mandate it. Until such time, let’s wait to see what happens."