Mayor Mike Rawlings promises to pay visits to owners of the city's toughest apartment complexes.

Mayor Mike Rawlings announced Monday that he plans to help crack down on apartment crime. He will need the help of police, apartment owners and managers, and the community, he says.

The mayor, along with Dallas Police Chief David Brown called a news conference this afternoon to showcase the success of the Mandatory Crime Reduction Program that has been in place at the Arbor Vista apartment community in Lake Highlands since last April. Knightvest, a Dallas-based outfit that owns 11 local properties bought Arbor Vista and cleaned house, Property Manager Melissa Bryant says.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown and Arbor Vista property manager Melissa Bryant answer questions about apartment crime reduction.

“There were three or four drug houses operating here. We had to start evicting people,” she says. “One drug dealer said to me (bitterly) during the evictions, ‘What you are trying to do, people have been trying to do for years. Good luck.’”

Other residents who are still here now heard him say it, she says. “Now we are proving it can change.”

Post evictions the occupancy rate dropped to about 20 percent, which is scary for any apartment owner, notes David Moore with Knightvest Management. But today it is at 60 percent, “and that’s all good tenants,” adds Bryant.

Children who live in apartment communities deserve a chance, city officials say.

We spoke with residents Glenda Thomas, Herbert Blair and Eddie Casnave. They’ve each lived there more than a year and are thrilled with the changes.

“We are all seniors and it was scary for us. You never knew what you were going to face when you got home,” Thomas says. “Now, you see people out walking with children and pets. There is a playground. It went from being a terrible place to being a friendly place,” she says.

Mayor Rawlings notes that statistics prove progress. In 2010, the Arbor Vista apartments saw seven aggravated assaults. In 2011 there was one. Burglaries in 2010: 16. In 2011: four. There was also a rape in 2010, but none in 2011.

Of course, cleaning up one complex won’t do much good if the dozens of surrounding apartment communities don’t commit to the same types of initiatives.

Resident Glenda Thomas says she feels safer these days.

To this end, Rawlins promises to meet with the owners of the city’s “toughest apartments”. There are good and bad apartment owners. Some of the bad ones might not even be bad, he says. Maybe they just don’t know what to do, he says.

Brown promises police support, but Rawlins notes that “citizens need to back the budget process to back police.”

Residents Herbert Blair and Eddie Casnave say their neighborhood has changed tremendously.

Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano, who also spoke, asked the public to remember that an apartment community is a neighborhood. She points to a small child in the room and says, “Giovanni, here, he’s four. He and the rest of the residents deserve a chance.”

Knightvest owns three apartments in Lake Highlands: Arbor Vista, Wellington and The Madeline. They are implementing similar programs at all of their properties.