NAACP Criticizes Mandatory Tenant Background Checks

Irving police say an apartment crime crackdown has helped score record low crime rates, but critics say the measure is excluding some people from renting.

Apartment complexes that have a certain amount of crime are required to conduct criminal background screenings on potential tenants.

"It's only people who are involved in criminal activity -- not traffic violations or anything minor -- but criminal activity in recent history," Police Chief Larry Boyd said.

But the Irving NAACP says the checks unfairly keep some people from renting.

Arthur Castillo, who paid rent for two years at the Thunderbird Apartments on Shady Grove Road near Loop 12, did not qualify when the complex ran a background check on him.

Records show that he had a vehicle inspection sticker infraction two years ago that was considered tampering with government records. That alone may not have been a problem, but it triggered a probation violation for a 1993 drug conviction.

Castillo said he already paid his dues for his conviction.

"Everything is OK with me," he said. "I am flying straight. I have no trouble. I am clean. I am working hard."

Rose Rocha, the apartment manager, said Castillo had not caused problems. She said she would be pleased to let him stay.

A bad tenant and people in his apartment caused crime problems that attracted police attention at the complex and triggered the mandatory background checks, she said.

Castillo was asked to apply as a new tenant because he had not been listed on a lease before the new rules were imposed, Boyd said.

"I didn't cause no trouble," Castillo said. "It's like they came looking for trouble. I don't want no trouble with them."

Irving NAACP founder Anthony Bond said it is unreasonable to force Castillo to leave. He said other residents face similar situations.

"I think it is maybe even a violation of Arthur and other folks' opportunity to get fair housing, equal housing," Bond said. "We believe from talking to attorneys, it's unconstitutional."

Boyd said there is an appeal process. Castillo may be allowed to stay if the apartment manager has no objection, he said.

"There's an opportunity to have that heard," he said.

The city has recorded a 31 percent reduction in crime through June compared to last year. Its apartment crime ordinance took effect in January.

"Things are working well for us, and so we want to continue to help our responsible apartment managers do what they can do to keep their residents safe," Boyd said.

Boyd said 60 percent of Irving residents live in apartments.

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