Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 273

Protecting Your Community in a Lawless America

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America is at a breaking point on crime. It’s rampant, the system is overwhelmed, and in many states the judicial system itself has become dysfunctional. In times like these it’s up to the community owner to help to make their property the safest it can be. Not through adding expensive security personnel, but instead by enacting common sense strategies and enhancements to the mobile home park that help to deter and report crime when it occurs. That’s the focus of this Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast.

Episode 273: Protecting Your Community in a Lawless America Transcript

A few days ago, my beloved Dodge Challenger, the one that I've driven across America many times, drove a 100,000 miles in one single year driving mobile home parks, was stolen. Stolen in a spot you would never anticipate, stolen at a moment you would not think possible. So I thought it was about time we talk again in a new lawless America of how to best protect your community from crime. This is Frank Rolfe, Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast. There's probably nothing worse that can happen to somebody in America today than have a criminal act happen against them. But yet it's so common, so frequent. It's become so much of the American narrative. So the question is, what can you do to better protect your community in a new lawless America where crime is rampant? 

Well, the first thing it is to have a zero tolerance policy on crime. Now, how do you do that? Well, it's an attitude. You're not going to allow crime to occur in your mobile home park. You know that it's wrong, and it's bad for your residents. And you say to yourself and everybody else, "No, we're drawing a line in the sand. We are not going to allow crime to occur." So you have to first arm yourself by understanding the laws of what you can and cannot do when it comes to residents and crime. Not crime coming in from the outside, but crime that often happens inside the community. Often when you buy a turnaround park, you inherit a bunch of people, often which are not really good for the overall community. People who engage in petty theft, they could engage in sales of illicit substances, things that are not really good, obviously, for your community at large. And you have to know what the laws are to non-renew their leases. You need to know what the laws are as far as reaching out to the police on behaviors. You just generally have to be an expert on crime.

But once you know what the rules are, you need to stick with them. Many moms and pops had wonderful mobile home parks, and they let them fall into rack and ruin because they never understood what you could or could not do, and their fear of not knowing what you could do made them very tolerant of crime. People would do bad things, they wouldn't do anything about it. The problems would fester. The good residents would ultimately run off to find someplace safer to live, and they'd be stuck with these people and the people who they attract. So it's number one, important to just say to yourself and tell your manager and everyone else, "No, we are not going to tolerate crime in this property." Number two, you need to weaponize against crime those hundreds and thousands of eyes staring out of the windows throughout the mobile home park with only a 911 call a second away. Because when your residents are organized against crime, when they understand that it's in their best interest to have their own zero tolerance, when they see things occurring, to report the things that they occur, that will really turn the tide.

Because for someone to do crime, they have to do it fairly undetected. They don't want any witnesses. They don't want anyone calling the police. And in your mobile home park, as high density as it is, you've got one of the best alarm systems going. And that is just people looking out their windows, seeing cars pull in, hearing noises. When you have those people organized in a fashion that they realize that when something occurs, they need to call 911, that word will get around. And suddenly, crime will start to evaporate. Now, that's not to say you should ever organize crime. You should never organize a crime watch. We all watched the Trayvon Martin case not that many years ago. And we know the dangers, the inherent liabilities of any property engaging in an organized crime watch group. So I'm not recommending that for any mobile home park. But I am recommending that people be educated inside the mobile home park, that the best way to battle crime is just to call 911 and to stay vigilant, look out their windows, watch what people do.

Another thing is to add ambient lighting. So how do you do that? Well, if you go out to your mobile home park at night, you will see there are some parts that have virtually no lighting at all. And we all know that having no lighting is not good for crime, or not having lighting is not good for crime prevention. Obviously, the absence of lighting is what every criminal would like to see. Now, the good news is you can beat back those ambient lighting deficiencies by installing security lighting, which you can do in one of two ways. One is to have your power company put big security lights on your existing telephone poles, if possible. Or you can augment that with solar-powered security lights. These street lights are solar, they look great both day and night. We've been a big fan, put them in a lot of properties. The beauty is you don't have to wire them. Oftentimes, park owners let certain areas of the park go dark because they didn't want to spend the money to run the wires over to make them light. However, with solar, that's no longer an issue. So I would go out to your property at night and look around and say, "Okay, now wait, that area has very low ambient light. I need to fix that."

Now, don't make it too bright. We're trying to fight crime here. We're not trying to fight sleep. Many of your residents will not appreciate having lights pouring through their windows at night, keeping them awake. So make sure you're doing it for the right reason. People like to have a very low ambient light. That low ambient light gives them a feeling of security. And at the same time, it allows them to feel better when getting their mail or going out to their car, maybe even taking a walk around the block. Also, you want to remove any amenity that draws others to your property that are not residents.

Once I had a giant fight in a mobile home park, and it happened out at a basketball court. And when the police got done arresting everyone, they found out one person on the basketball court lived in the mobile home park. That's a total fail. That's not an amenity that you want. You don't want an amenity that is used by others who don't live in the mobile home park. All amenities are to be just for your residents. This is private property. If you observe people coming in from the outside using your amenity, that's a big problem. There's no reason to do that. You're inviting the potential for crime. So make sure that you don't create amenities that do that.

Now, the good news is mostly the amenities that attract people from the outside are expensive. And that's why they go there, but through supply and demand. There's more demand than there is a supply. So people will therefore seek out to utilize amenities that they shouldn't be in because it's private property, and they know that. The best amenities in mobile home parks are traditionally things like picnic tables and outdoor grills, simple amenities that people from the outside typically will not come in because they have those plentifully all the way around them. You can also put a curfew on common areas if that is allowed in your state, city, and county. We've had cases where we have improved the quality of life with residents, eliminated congregations of people, and making noise at night simply by putting a curfew on those areas.

I leave it up to you for what that curfew time might be. It might be 10 p.m. That might be appropriate. It might be a little earlier. Maybe a little later based on your circumstance. But check and see if you can put a curfew on that amenity such that you can stop people congregating, stop the potential for crime, noise, and those kinds of issues if that is allowed by law. Also, sometimes a good community owner can make their property even better by improving the fencing to keep people out. Now, there was a case of a mobile home park we once had down in Texas, and this park had constant petty crime. People were going in and stealing things out of yards and causing all kinds of mayhem. And you could see where they came in from. They came in from the back of the property. How did we know this? Well, there was a chain link fence back there, and they had basically cut holes in the chain link. So that's where they came in.

Well, how do you battle that? Well, we constructed a solid metal wall. I know it's been the subject of debate in America. I'm not sure why that somehow walls don't work to stop people from going through areas. Well, that's of course nonsense. And any park owner knows that. If you want to stop people from going into your property at night, erect a wall, a metal wall. Now, that strong metal wall that you can build, that metal fence, is one in which you can't always stop people from coming through because you can't afford it. So check out the price tag of how many linear feet you have to run to make it possible. But fencing is often a very good idea. Even if it's as simple as chain link, if you denote your property line, that will make people not go into the property because they know they are then on private property and subject to you calling the police. But fencing has always been and will always remain a great idea.

Now, in the event that you have crime and you need to eradicate it from the property, let's say you buy a turnaround park and there's already all kinds of crime issues, one of the best ways to eliminate crime is simply by hiring and utilizing off-duty police. Now, why would an off-duty police be an effective tool to eradicate crime? Well, because you're effectively bringing the police into areas where they don't have typically the time to spend unless you're paying for it. So if I can hire an off-duty policeman in a police car in full uniform on my property, if I didn't pay them to be there, they would probably come by what? Five seconds a day, if that much. There's so much crime in America today, you're so low down the priority list, you never get there. But if I can hire them to come in for an hour, two hours, four hours, all night, I can care almost anything. I once had an issue with a bunch of crime in a mobile home park in Shreveport, Louisiana. It was terrifying prior to closing on the property. There was someone shot and killed at the sign out in front of it. So I actually called the police and said, "Hey, I'm a little worried about buying this property. I love the location, I love everything about it, but I don't know what to do regarding the crime. I'm scared." And they said, "Well, if you'll hire us in an off-duty mode, we can cure that."

And they were exactly correct, they could. They came out and camped out on the property every night, night after night. It cost a lot of money. Back then, it was $35 an hour, 8 hours a night doing it. But they were also correct. Within about two weeks, they had scared the people out. They abandoned their mobile homes and went off, never to be seen from again. Because if you're into crime, if you're a criminal, you have to have privacy. You have to be away from the police. When you hire off-duty policemen, it's the reverse. You're actually sticking them virtually in a room with the people committing the crimes, and they can't tolerate that. It's terrible for business. Remember, the criminals, at the end of the day, pretty much that's their career. That's their business. And they can't do well with that business under the constant scrutiny of the police department.

The bottom line to it all is that crime is a terrible thing. I can tell you firsthand, never really had a big criminal issue until the Challenger was stolen. And I hope to never have it again. But it brought me up to current with how crazy and lawless America has become, how crazy it is that the police can no longer, in this case, do high-speed pursuit of stolen cars. That was an eye-opener. I thought the police could track down anybody and chase after them, but no. Apparently, due to laws that have passed and different guidelines, they can't do high-speed chases unless it's of the extreme crimes of things like armed robbery and murder. So if someone steals your car and wants to go 10 miles over the speed limit, they'll certainly get away. There's a lot not to like about what's going on in America right now with crime, but there's a lot to like with what a lot of community owners are doing and have done to reduce it and eradicate it. So I urge everyone to take the time to start thinking for the year of 2023, what can I do to make my property a safer place to live? It's going to definitely enhance the value to your customers. We all know that higher value leads to higher rents, higher resident retention, higher resident attraction.

Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.