Police size up officer's rentals

All cops now must disclose real estate

Staff WriterFebruary 7, 2007 

— City police will investigate whether a detective sergeant violated rules by renting Southeast Raleigh homes troubled by drugs, prostitution and decay, and all officers must provide a list of property they own beyond their own houses.

The moves the City Council backed Tuesday came after news that Sgt. Tommy Newman owns 10 homes that drew 86 police calls over the past five years.

As City Manager Russell Allen announced the internal investigation, he said officers' oaths to uphold the law hold them to a higher standard.

"They do have a duty, as all citizens do, to comply with the city's laws," Allen said.

Neighbors of the houses have said they are outraged by the idea that a police sergeant would own homes that his fellow officers must keep under control and not do more to prevent them from being sites for criminal activity.

All Raleigh officers will be reminded that their primary jobs take priority over investments or rental property, Allen said.

Chief Jane Perlov has circulated a memo requiring all police employees to list all Wake County real estate owned beyond their primary homes. It must list the date of purchase and manner of use -- due Friday. Neither Perlov nor Newman, however, has commented publicly on the matter.

Allen said he believed Newman's case was an isolated incident.

Also Tuesday, City Attorney Thomas McCormick suggested the city consider adding renters' criminal activity to rules that govern landlords. The council agreed to take up the tougher rules in committee.

Under Raleigh's laws, landlords must pay $500 a year for a two-year permit and attend classes once they rack up nuisance party or noise violations or fail to fix problems cited by inspectors.

Raleigh will now consider using crime at rental property as a trigger for landlords to enter into the permit program.

Mayor Charles Meeker noted that Raleigh has spent years tearing down dilapidated houses and ordering repairs at those that can be saved, making steady progress. Still, he said, Raleigh suffers from houses that are "basically unmanaged."

He gave all landlords a warning.

"Whether you're a city employee or you're somebody else, if you are renting property you're going to have to manage it well," he said.

"If you don't, it won't be long before the city makes it very expensive for you."

Busted for rats

Though Newman is not one of Southeast Raleigh's biggest landlords, residents have complained that his homes are a blight on the community.

City inspectors have also visited many of Newman's properties -- 18 total in Wake County, records show -- for public nuisance and housing code violations. One on Camden Street sits boarded-up more than two years after inspectors cited it for bad plumbing fixtures, holes in the wall and rats.

Allen said inspectors will follow up on progress at those houses.

Council members, meanwhile, continued to express dismay over the police calls to Newman's rental houses.

James West, who represents Southeast Raleigh, said he has heard neighbors' reports of police slumlords for two or three years.

"They prey on the community and are not very good landlords," he said.

He added that their presence in Southeast Raleigh, already fighting derelict housing and crime, moves the neighborhood into a downward spiral.

"In stable communities, when something happens you get a cold," he said. "In distressed communities, you get pneumonia."

Staff writer Josh Shaffer can be reached at 829-4818 or jshaffer@newsobserver.com.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service