This is the second part of several stories in a series that will discuss changes happening at the West Village Apartments regarding law enforcement, crime and quality of life issues residents face. Read the first part here. 

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ITHACA, N.Y. — Ithaca is cracking down on trespassing at the West Village Apartments.

Before early December, anyone accused of trespassing at the West Village Apartments endured a lengthy process.

A new police form, in use since Dec. 4, makes ticketing people for trespassing more efficient. Ithaca police officers are working jointly with the property manager to prevent trespassing, including posting new “No Loitering” signs.

“It doesn’t mean that the threshold has been lowered to arrest somebody. It doesn’t mean that developing the probable cause to arrest somebody or issue somebody a ticket has been lowered,” said Spokesman Jamie Williamson, of the Ithaca Police Department.

The form is essentially a pre-filled out, carbon-copy that lets officers write tickets in a matter of minutes.

Previously at West Village, after an officer had probable cause for suspecting trespassing — such as a person not living at the apartments or unable to say why they were on the property — police had to verify with apartment managers that the person was not allowed to be there, Williamson said.

That could be problematic at 3 a.m. when the managers are asleep. Then there’s the issue of writing the actual ticket, which could later take 20 or 30 minutes to file at the end of a shift, per ticket.

The West Village Task Force, which comprises officers, common councilors and apartment residents, agreed that the process was inefficient.

Concerns over safety at West Village

This summer, people concerned for their safety approached Cynthia Brock, first ward common councilor — a first in her four-year tenure as an alderperson. She said that complaints about illegal activities at West Village are usually sent to her anonymously because people told her they feared retribution from either management or neighbors.

“I firmly believe that the unfavorable or unpleasant instances occurring at West Village are not primarily being done by the residents who live there, but by their guests or people coming onto the property that aren’t guests.”

The intent of the streamlined form, Williamson said, is meant to directly combat that — to reduce crime by keeping people who do not live at the apartments off the property unless they have legitimate reasons to be there.

Williamson said the new forms will only be used on the private property and must be approved by West Village management every 90 days.

On getting compliance

West Village is not the only place expedited ticket writing happens.

A few years ago police developed a similar form for writing tickets for common violations in Collegetown, such as noise complaints and open bottle infractions.

“We have found that in the Collegetown area, with zero tolerance, we start to get compliance, and when we start to get compliance the complaints go down,” Williamson said.

He said the reason the trespassing forms will not be used city-wide is because trespassing generally happens on private property. Many of the Collegetown complaints — such as open bottle violations or public intoxication — happen on public property.

“All we have done is develop a form that has decreased the amount of time an officer would spend arresting a person for trespass and that has been brought about by complaints from residents, management and neighbors about people lingering or loitering at West Village for no legitimate purpose,” Williamson said.

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Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.