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February 11. 2013 8:08PM

Littleton apartment complex asked to curb crime


BRIEN WARD 

LITTLETON - In response to a resident's December complaint about what he called an elevated level of serious and violent crimes at a housing development, Littleton officials have put the property's owner and managers on a sort-of probation.

Brien Ward, an attorney and former deputy prosecutor in Grafton County, met with selectmen in December and called for them to look into closing Parker Village and its 50 apartments, and relocating its 125 residents, including 65 children.

Another selectmen's meeting last month had to be moved to the Littleton Opera House when some 75 people showed up, many of them residents of the development just north of downtown on Route 116. They objected to Ward's call to have Parker Village declared a public nuisance.

After hearing both sides and studying the matter, the board has decided on measures that fall well short of a major relocation and closing the apartments.

"(The) Board believes that relocating the 50 families is an unnecessary response to what appears to be a somewhat elevated level of calls for police assistance over other multifamily housing communities in town," board members wrote to Ward.

The selectboard members - Chairman Michael Gilman, Marghie Seymour and Milt Bratz - said Town Manager Fred Moody and Police Chief Paul Smith have come up with a plan to boost communication between police and project administrators, including on-site manager Pauline DiNatale. There is also a plan to have the police department prepare weekly incident reports for Parker Village and a quarterly report that lists calls for service there.

"If multiple calls for service/incidents or arrests emanate from any one apartment or individual, the police department will contact the on-site manager so that corrective action can be taken," the selectmen wrote.

Parker's Village's "management team will exhibit due diligence in screening applicants (for housing), including criminal records checks," the selectmen said in their letter.

The development's managers will also be expected to consider erecting a barrier or fence between Parker's Village property and abutting residential properties and consider installing exterior video cameras in common areas open to the public.

"Parker's Village management team will in consultation with the Littleton Police Department, establish the following: A Neighborhood Watch Program, and designating the neighborhood (and other high occupancy multi-family developments) a Drug Free Zone in accordance with a proposed new ordinance," board members said in their letter

"While the Town recognizes these achievements may not entirely eliminate future calls for service by the Littleton Police Department, the department will, in conjunction with the Parker's Village Management Team, regularly evaluate these proactive measures and determine whether additional mitigation efforts are needed to maintain a safe and secure neighborhood for all Parker's Village residents and visitors," board members concluded.

The board said it would evaluate the results in six months, and again in a year.

Ward, who at the January public meeting noted that he did not repeat his call for closing the development, said he is satisfied with the town's plan, and is willing to see how it turns out.

DiNatale, the on-site manager, said Sunday she was relieved that the property would not be closed, and now considers Ward's complaint a "wake-up call" for tenants and administrators, including Paul Stewart.

Stewart's Bedford-based firm, Stewart Property Management, oversees the housing development. "Paul Stewart felt comfortable with it," DiNatale said of the proposal.

"The residents have to understand that their actions affect others, including other residents. Overall, this is good," she said.

bhookway@newstote.com


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