Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 151

The Truth About Trailers And Trouble

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The television show COPS would suggest that all mobile home parks are community crime centers. The movie 8-Mile, starring Eminem, makes it look like trailer parks are the “go-to” spot for drugs, violence and petty crime of all varieties. But is that stereotype true? The U.S. government answered that question in 2010 with the release of “Trailers and Trouble? An Examination of Crime in Mobile Home Communities” written by Professor William P. McCarty of the University of Illinois, which was part of HUD’s formal “Cityscape: a Journal of Policy Development and Research”. So what did HUD’s research show? Let’s just say that the trailer park crime narrative was more than just a little off-base.

Episode 151: The Truth About Trailers And Trouble Transcript

Trailers and Trouble, an Examination of Crime in Mobile Home Communities. That was a paper written by professor William P. McCarty at the University of Illinois in Chicago. And it was part of a big giant study called The Cityscape, A Journal of Policy Development and Research done by the U.S.A Department of Housing and Urban Development, yes, HUD back in 2010. Didn't get much discussion, but it has some very, very enlightening conclusions. People have always thought that mobile home parks are centers of crime. In fact, the paper starts off, it says, "Mobile home communities also known as manufactured housing communities or trailer parks are often portrayed negatively. Individuals living in residential neighborhoods near mobile home communities often perceive the trailers as ugly and the lifestyle of the inhabitants is questionable. Consequently, they believe the communities diminish the value of their homes. Decades of this antipathy have resulted in these mobile home communities being relegated to blighted areas by municipals of zoning boards or not allowed at all."

So that sums it up. The average American thinks that mobile home parks are just terrible when it comes to crime. Why not? Well, they see shows like Cops and Eight Mile with Eminem. And so of course, we all know the truth, right? Those shows are definitely great news sources, but maybe yet they're not. Here's what the paper went on to say. "Despite the persistence of this negative stigma, academic research, focusing on crime and life in mobile home communities has been virtually nonexistent. This lack of research is especially surprising in the field of criminology, in which crime has been analyzed in urban neighborhoods and rural areas and public housing complexes and all forms of real estate, but yet mobile home parks were left out."

So the point of the paper is they wanted to once and for all bring to a head crime in mobile home parks statistically, this is again, is through HUD. Now, here is what they found at the end of the study. Official police data from 2000 through 2002 in Omaha indicate no statistical significantly different in the rates of crime between blocks with mobile home communities, blocks adjacent to mobile home communities, and all other residential blocks. In regressors, controlling for a variety of other variables the association of mobile home communities remained statistically insignificant. Blocks adjacent to mobile homes when manifested no significant association with other property crime or violent crime rates.

Interesting. So what did the study find? It found that mobile home parks in fact are not crime centers. In fact, that mobile home parks show no greater crime than other areas of the United States, as far as all other housing types. In fact, I think it discovered that one item in the research. Because there's a paragraph that says, "It is argued that individuals who own a housing unit have a greater stake economically and socially in maintaining the viability of the overall neighborhood. This study found that an interaction term for the presence of mobile home community and the percent of households that are owner occupied had a statistically significant and negative association with both violent crime and property crime rates over and above the negative association of home ownership and crime in general."

So what it says in the end is that basically mobile home parks have a terrible stereotype is completely undeserved. They don't have a lot of crime. And probably the key reason is simply because people in mobile home parks own their own home. So let's break that down then between what turned out to be in the study of the place where all the crime is, and you can already guess what that's going to be. And the answer of course is apartments. We all know that. We know from the actual news, not the fake news, not the stuff, not the TV shows, not Eight Mile with Eminem, that whenever there's some big crime story it always seem to come back to an apartment complex.

So let's compare apartments and mobile home parks on three key factors to try and hammer home the reason why mobile home parks probably are not where you're going to find a whole lot of crime. Number one, let's look at the barriers to law enforcement properly interacting with residents and solving crimes in apartments versus mobile home parks. In an apartment what do you have? You have strong masonry walls, bulletproof walls, walls you can't see through. Also, you have very limited entry. Typically in an apartment complex there's only one way in and sometimes one way out. Police are coming in you can spot the cars as they turn to the drive and you know where to go. Of course you can go out the back or watch for the cars coming in the back. It's very easy to identify the danger zones if you're a criminal when you're in an apartment.

But in a mobile home park, you have accessibility from every direction at all times. People can approach your mobile home from any side, from the top, from the bottom. So basically you never, if you are a criminal, ever would feel comfortable in a mobile home, in a mobile home park. It would give you absolutely no solace to know that you only have a paper thin wall compared to those nice thick cinder block and masonry and brick structures. Additionally apartments give you that second floor. There's no way you can get to the second floor. You can't jump that high, you have to go up the stairs. That limits the access even more.

Most departments only have one set of stairs. As long as I have a visibility of the stairs and there's no one coming up the stairs, I know I'm safe for my criminal enterprise. Mobile homes are not two storey, so you cannot ever guard from people getting into your mobile home because they can approach it from either the front or back door, or either side or the windows. So accessibility would obviously make a mobile home and a mobile home park, a really bad place to be a criminal.

But what about potential witnesses? Well, let's look. In an apartment typically you don't have that many people looking out the windows once you get up close to the building. But in a mobile home park, you have a million people looking at every direction. Every home has windows all the way around it. And you have very, very high density of all those windows. Anyone who's walked through mobile home park knows that every moment you're walking through that park, you can almost feel the eyes on you for many, many homes. So you have so many more witnesses to a crime, witnesses to report what happened to the police, witnesses to actually call the police. So once again, mobile home parks, much more witnesses, many more hands to dial 911 with than the apartments have.

Finally, you have the awareness of neighbors and their actions. People who live in mobile home parks tend to live, the study show, for 14 years in one spot. That's because people who live in mobile home parks rarely move around. But apartment residents are not the same. They're constantly on the move constantly moving in and out. Most department people have no idea even the name of their neighbor, whereas in every mobile home park, everyone knows all their neighbors. So again, you have groups that actually know each other. They can spot crime in the making. They know when people don't belong there, they can see them. They can see activities that are not normal and they can report those to the authorities. So once again, mobile home parks infinitely superior over apartments.

But then let's end up with what the government ended up with in that own study. And that is the importance of owning your own property. Apartments have one thing the mobile home parks would never have and don't want to have. And that is you can never be a homeowner in an apartment complex. Yes, you can in a condo building, they look kind of the same, but we're talking apartments here, and apartments are all about rental. You own nothing. You own your furniture. You may own your car out in the parking lot, but when it comes to the inside of that, the real property and all the improvements, the apartment resident owns nothing.

However, the mobile home park, they own their mobile home. Yes, the park owner owns the land, but the mobile home owner owns the home itself. So they are basically a stakeholder in the business. And because they own their own home, they have most of the same attributes of those who live in stick-built subdivisions. They really, really care. They care about the neighborhood. They care about their property. They're going to protect their property. They're going to maintain their property. They're going to call the authorities when they see anything jeopardizing their property.

People don't realize that the person in that mobile home is so similar to the one in the stick-built home. There's no group out there that parallels so many of the same attributes. So as a result in the very manner that those in stick-built homes are constantly trying to protect their property, so are people in mobile home parks. In the same way that people of stick-built homes really, really care about their neighbors, watching out for their neighbors and the value of their property, so too, does the person in the mobile home park. So when you add it all together, what is it all means? It means that we as Americans should be ashamed of ourselves for having these terribly screwed up stigmas, concerning mobile home parks and danger.

I myself knew from my very first part, mobile home park that I ever owned in Glen Haven, when I bought it, I knew nothing, but I had the same stigma that all Americans do. I thought it would be very dangerous. So I went out and got a concealed handgun license. But I stopped carrying the handgun a couple months in because I realized it really wasn't dangerous. This was something in my mind, something I had developed from watching TV, from the news stories that I heard, from what other people told me. When I told someone I was buying a mobile home park, one person, the very first thing they said, "Oh my gosh, you got to get a gun." That's how dangerous they thought it would be. They thought it would be the gunfight at the O.K Corral on a daily basis. And that is absolute hogwash.

Mobile home parks are not dangerous. I can walk through any of the parks that we own at any time, day or night. I never feel at danger. I never feel at risk. Why is that? I don't feel just anywhere at risk that I would in a single family subdivision. It's the same phenomenon going on. People who own their homes, they care about their neighbors, they care about where they live, they care about maintaining the value and the quality of life of where they live. So thanks to HUD, we now actually have the scientific data. They did exhaustive research on Omaha, Nebraska, how mobile home parks worked, how apartments did stick-build, and you've heard the results.

So basically we've known since 2010, that mobile home parks are in fact, not all about trailers and trouble, non whatsoever. They in fact, are nothing more than a story of people who own their property, care about their property, are good and very fine members of society, very supportive of what goes on in the community, and they need to have this ridiculous stigma of crime in mobile home parks erased. If you want to pinpoint anything that has more crime in a community, look towards apartments. I know everyone loves apartments, because the apartment industry spends so much money in its public relations out there, which the mobile home park industry never has caught in any kind of good proactive approach to. But everyone knows the truth. And so hopefully now you know the truth. Basically Trailers in Trouble know trailers have nothing to do with crime, trailers are just a fine safe place to be. This is Frank Rolfe, the Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast series. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.