Developer offers free rent for officers to live in rough neighborhood

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PATERSON -

A Paterson developer says that he is offering free rent to Paterson police officers or Passaic County sheriff’s officers if they live in his buildings. The only catch – it is in one of Paterson’s toughest neighborhoods.

Developer Charles Florio says that he has had to rip out the front door of 83-85 Auburn St. in an attempt to keep drug activity out of the building. He says that the crime and drug use has gotten out of control.

"So the perception would be if you walked in here and I wasn't here, this guy is a slumlord,” Florio says. “There's no lights, there are holes, all the floors are dirty. This entire building was renovated, they take the bulbs out….We put in cameras, they put bags over the cameras.”

Florio says that he will only come to the building in Paterson’s 4th Ward escorted by security guards. News 12 New Jersey’s Karen Lee met with Florio outside his building Friday morning.

“If we stay here another half hour, you’ll see people openly buying drugs and openly shooting up drugs,” Florio says.

The building sits next to a vacant building. Scrap collectors were seen in the front yard looking for items to sell. Trash and syringes were found in the back. Florio says that no fence, security camera or flood light will keep the area safe.

"You can go into a building, do whatever you want and you're not going to get arrested.  Only in Paterson,” he says. “This stinks."

Florio says that he will offer free rent to law enforcement in an effort to stem crime in the 4th Ward.

"When I grew up in this town, police officers lived in this town.  The majority of them do not now,” says community activist Ernest Rucker. "We need cops to be visible.  Out of their cars, on the streets."

Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale says that he loves the idea, but would need to check with the department’s ethics board before any officer took up the deal. Speziale says that he would love to see police headquarters moved to that ward as well.

"It's going to displace and push that criminal element out.  They don't want to be by us,” he says.

Florio says that he has already gotten some interest in his plan. Rent for his three-bedroom units typically goes for $1,400 to $1,600 a month.

"You make an unsafe city safe, the values of your real estate goes up,” Florio says. “There's nothing wrong with me wanting to make a profit and help change the area."

If the rent-free proposal gets approval, officers would need to provide proof of residence.

Speziale also says that he will dedicate 25 police officers for foot patrol in the area come June.

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