More officers have tenants

Staff WriterFebruary 11, 2007 

— A second Raleigh police officer doubles as a landlord in a neighborhood troubled by drugs and violence, and a retired sergeant owns 34 houses on the struggling streets his former colleagues patrol.

Real estate records and crime reports show that officers cast a larger presence in Southeast Raleigh than Sgt. Tommy Newman, who owns 10 homes that have drawn police 86 times since 2001.

Newman's homes were the subject of a News & Observer report Feb. 4 that prompted demands from City Manager Russell Allen and Mayor Charles Meeker that police be held to a higher standard. Outgoing Chief Jane Perlov ordered all officers to list homes that they, their spouses and their children own.

Cpl. Terrence McNeill has two rental properties, one on East Martin Street and one on East Davie Street. They have drawn 30 police calls since 2001 -- many of them assaults.

Thomas N. Bates, who spent 19 years with Raleigh police before retiring as a sergeant in 2001, has built a growing empire with Brycar Enterprises, a rental agency.

Only six of his 34 Southeast Raleigh homes show a history of violence, and many of those involved simple fistfights, according to police records.

But he sold Newman two of the 10 houses that Newman now owns, as well as a pair of quadruplexes on East Jones Street that had holes in the wall stuffed with squashed beer cans. Blight grew so intolerable there that in 2004 the city bought the property for $320,000.

Newman has declined comment. Bates could not be reached Friday or Saturday. McNeill says he is an honest landlord trying to make a living in hard neighborhoods.

But their ownership role fuels neighbors' impression that police view Southeast Raleigh as more fertile ground for investment than enforcement.

Sylvester Joyner lives across the street from Big John's Community Grocery, a popular spot for loiterers in a building Bates owns.

"He don't live over in this area," Joyner said. "Folks like me see it every day. I just feel like if that problem were somewhere else, there would be more police."

Cocaine sales and prostitution rank high among the reasons police were summoned to houses owned by Newman, a 23-year veteran of the department.

In 2004, one of Newman's houses on East Jones Street drew officers on prostitution and drug calls three times in one day.

Bates' and McNeill's houses show more moderate records -- mostly assault and possession of marijuana -- than Newman's.

One of Bates' houses, a modest bungalow on South East Street, had police investigate shots fired two days after he bought it. Three weeks later, they returned on a marijuana call.

McNeill, an 18-year veteran of the department, said he bought his properties as investments.

"The property was cheap," he said. "I wanted to do something to supplement my income without working off-duty."

He said he tells all of his tenants that he is a police officer, and he encourages them to report crime. This policy hurts him, he said, because friends of his tenants use his house to report crimes that happen elsewhere.

"A lot of them don't have phones," he said. "Now I see that me encouraging them to call, it's kind of coming back to bite me."

Records show Bates started buying Southeast Raleigh rental houses as early as 1998.

Many of Bates' houses appear well-kept, and signs in the yard advertise Brycar.

Bates also owns the building at 902 Edenton St. that houses Big John's Community Grocery, Joyner's neighbor.

State alcohol records show that both a Presbyterian church and the College Park/Idlewild Community Watch opposed alcohol sales at that site. Raleigh police forwarded their own objections based on neighbors' concerns.

But Big John's got its temporary permit for beer and fortified wine in 2004 and a permanent one the next year after no violations.

Across the street, Joyner said he limits calls to the police when he sees drugs changing hands outside the store. Otherwise, he said, he would be calling police about loiterers four or five times a day.

"At 2 or 3 in the morning," he said, "you get no peace at all."

Joyner sympathizes with the owner -- he has had trouble over his own rental properties -- but he sees little progress.

Octavia Rainey, community activist and head of the North Central Citizens Advisory Council, said police-landlords, alcohol and marginal neighborhoods do not mix.

"With all the complaining this neighborhood does about beer and wine," she asked, "what in the ham sandwich are you doing opening a beer and wine store?"

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

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