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April 29, 2004 - The Times-Picayune, The (LA)

207 Tied To Criminals Evicted Or Lose Financial Aid

Police, Housing Authority Join Forces In Campaign

By Stephanie Doster

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

More than 120 people involved in violent or drug-related activities have been forced to move out of Section 8 or public housing in Kenner or come up with their own rent as part of a recent partnership between the Kenner Police Department and the Kenner Housing Authority, officials said Wednesday.

More than 80 people lost financial assistance because they let drug dealers or convicted violent felons live in their homes or had recent criminal histories of their own involving drugs or violence.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development lets housing authorities refuse assistance to an applicant, renter or landlord if any member of the family living with them commits a drug-related offense or a violent criminal activity, said Lillie Liddell, acting director of the Kenner Housing Authority.

Although no statistics were available, the effort has helped reduce serious crime in those areas, Kenner police Capt. James Gallagher said.

Police began scrutinizing who was living in government-subsidized housing in March 2003, after noticing a steady increase in crime and calls for service in an area around 27th Street that had a high concentration of Section 8 and public housing, Capt. James Gallagher said.

Using booking logs, incident reports and tips to the Police Department and the housing authority, police compared addresses citywide and checked criminal backgrounds, then turned their findings over to the housing officials, Gallagher said.

The housing authority, which fields hundreds of applicants every year for its 137 public housing units and for 572 Section 8 vouchers, holds hearings for those accused of violating the zero-tolerance policy before deciding whether to sever their financial aid.

Gallagher said that as of April 5:

- -- Eighty-four people lost their financial assistance for housing drug dealers or convicted felons, or for their own criminal histories.

- -- One hundred twenty-two drug dealers, drug users and violent criminal offenders were required to move out or pay rent.

- -- One property owner identified by police as a convicted drug dealer lost government-subsidized rent money he had been receiving from tenants. The tenants were relocated and did not lose their subsidy.

- -- Thirteen drug dealers and convicted felons identified as frequent visitors to Section 8 or public housing were issued written notices barring them from the property and threatening them with arrest if they trespass.

"When people are losing and know they are going to lose their financial assistance if they allow criminals to live with them and use their residence, I think you're going to see where those numbers probably dwindle over the next couple of years," said Capt. Steve Caraway, Kenner Police spokesman.

Liddell lauded the partnership between the housing authority and the police.

"It has been wonderful," Liddell said. "We are hoping and we are praying our authority can continue to have a positive appeal so that people can be poor but they don't have to live in a crime-infested community."

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