BELLEVILLE, Ill. - The owners of a West Belleville apartment building could face charges if criminal activity continues to take place on their property, according to the St. Clair County State's Attorney office.
This year, police responded to more than 60 calls at the apartments at 7701 West Main. That includes a shooting on July 21 when a man was shot while sitting in a car. The address is well known to people who live and work in the area, like clothing store owner Roger Wiggington.
"Big problem for the last five years," Wiggington said. "Since the first of the year, there's been 65 calls on that property. Since last November, there's been 16 violations. The gentleman's an absentee owner. Several weeks ago, we had a drug-related shooting there involving six individuals."
Wiggington spoke to a policeman the day of the shooting.
"I said, 'if we don't get a handle on this, somebody's going to get shot down there,'" Wiggington said. "I never thought four hours later somebody would get shot. 7701 is an eyesore."
In a letter St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly sent to the Florissant, Mo. landlords, Kelly wrote: "The condition and management of your premises may foster criminal activity and misconduct that has a detrimental impact on the surrounding community." The State's attorney went on to warn the landlords they could face charges if conditions don't improve at the apartments they own.
"The ultimate goal is to get the properties into a situation again, to which they're not a detriment to the community and don't allow the criminal element and criminal activity to flourish," said Jon Allard from the State's Attorney office.
Belleville's Crime-Free ordinance requires rental property owners to evict tenants facing felony or misdemeanor charges committed at the property. Allard said warning letters to property owners are common.
"Each case is different. Many times the landlords do work with our office or the local agency or municipality, but sometimes we have had to bring charges," said Allard.
Since the August 4 warning letter to the landlords, Belleville Police accompanied the landlord when he served eviction notices to four residents.
"This gentleman doesn't live here and doesn't have any stake in the community," said whose clothing store is about a mile from the apartments. "He never came over to police his property even with all the phone calls, with the 16 violations. Let's face it, it's all bottom line with these guys. It's how much money you can make. He has 8 apartments in there, but now four of them are shut down."