It can be difficult for landlords – even responsible ones – to understand all of their rights and responsibilities when dealing with tenants and applicants in a city facing a crime problem.
So, on Tuesday, the Greater Johnstown Landlord Association had Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan, Cambria County Drug Task Force Field Supervisor Kevin Price and Constable Sam Allison educate its members about the causes of – and possible solutions to – the region’s recent crime outbreak.
Callihan explained the need for an all-encompassing approach to addressing the problem that included spikes in assaults and burglaries between 2010 and 2012, according to the ad hoc Johnstown Crime and Violence Commission.
“It really takes an entire community,” said Callihan during the event held inside the Somerset Trust Co.’s Johnstown branch.
“I know Kevin would agree with me. We cannot just arrest our way out of this problem. In my opinion, it requires really three components to reverse this. Not only law enforcement, but rehabilitation for the offenders.
“We have to get them into treatment and be able to afford it. A lot of the people using drugs say they don’t have insurance, they don’t have jobs, there’s no way to pay for their treatment. If they’re in the court system, we can force that, we can make them go through evaluations. And the third component is education.”
State Rep. Bryan Barbin, D-Johnstown, the commission’s chairman, described heroin trafficking as the common denominator linking problems with law enforcement, housing, rehabilitation and education.
“Heroin came here a long time ago,” said Price.
“It basically rose to where it’s at for one reason and one reason only: prescription pills. Prescription pills created heroin. It’s as simple as that. Oxycodone and OxyContin created heroin because they’re both forms of an opiate. One’s manmade, one God lets grow throughout the world. That’s what caused our problems here in Cambria County.”
Rich Hudec, the landlord association’s executive chairman, also talked about what property owners can do to avoid getting undesirable tenants.
“You’re allowed to use criminal background to choose whether to rent to a person or not,” said Hudec. “You just have to apply those standards equally among all protected classes.
“If you have two applicants and one is a member of a protected class and is a felon and another applicant is not a member of a protected class and is a felon, you better not rent to the non-protected class person and turn down the person who is a member of a protected class.”
Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Dave_Sutor.