Nobody wants to live in a crime-infested neighborhood — but it’s important not to take away people’s civil liberties and their right to due process in the name of safety.
All over America (including Florida), “crime-free” multi-unit housing programs are taking hold. Essentially, they’re rental housing units and apartments where landlords and property managers enact swift bans on anyone that’s even suspected of criminal activity.
It sounds good, in theory. In practice, it means that the police can report your activities to your landlord and get you evicted — even if they can’t make a case against you in court.
Far from being an occasional use of official power, this sort of thing has become the de rigueur practice of many police departments. Some even have designated, full-time employees who review police reports and crime blotters and write letters or make calls to a suspect’s landlord. In some areas, landlords can even be forced to evict someone whether that person has been convicted of a crime or not.
Advocates of the system love it. They say that it keeps everyone much safer. Opponents, however, point out that it’s a system that’s wide-open for abuse. If you live in one of these housing developments, a police officer intent on making a case against your boyfriend for drug-dealing, for example, could threaten to tell your landlord that you’re suspected of holding drugs for him on the premises. That’s a lot of pressure to face, especially if you’re trying to keep a roof over the heads of you and your children.
This is another one of the many reasons that it’s smart to speak to an attorney before you speak to the police. No matter what your situation — even if you’re innocent — you run significant risks by trying to handle interactions with the police on your own. An experienced attorney understands the system, the risks you face and how best to protect your interests.