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Crime victims father and a lawyer ask city for new laws
More disclosure of previous crimes sought
Statesboro Police Department patch

Both Sean Strudgeon, whose son was recently the victim of an armed robbery and kidnapping from a Statesboro apartment, and an attorney spoke to City Council on Tuesday. They asked for new city laws to protect renters and especially college students.

Strudgeon praised the Statesboro Police Department for the fact that his son’s alleged attackers are now in jail. Although a Chatham County resident, Strudgeon  said “Statesboro is a great place” and he appreciates its role in hosting Georgia Southern University and 21,000 “kids just getting started in life,” including his son.

But after what happened, Strudgeon and his family want to be advocates for improving the crime situation and protecting the students, he said.

“I can tell you that my son rented an apartment, I thought it was great, it was right next to the stadium, it was going to be a great time for him, some good memories there. But not to mention, there’s crime there,” Strudgeon said. “We didn’t know about it. We were never disclosed about it.”

He asked if there is any requirement for a leasing agency to let potential renters know that several break-ins or other crimes have occurred in an area. There isn’t, at least not in the city’s ordinances.

“There’s nothing that helps these kids,” he said.

But Strudgeon said he had learned of some resources available in the community, particularly the Police Department’s online crime map, which he wants to help get the word out about. The map is a feature of the department’s site, http://statesboropd.com.

 

The crime

Tyler Strudgeon is the man age 23 who police said was abducted from a residence on Robin Hood Trail by two other men about 2:30 a.m. on Aug. 6 and robbed. The men allegedly forced Strudgeon from his home, hit him with a hammer, threatened him with a gun, forced him to drive them to an ATM in his vehicle and withdrew money from his account.

Statesboro police later last week charged Travon Malik Cray, 23, of Baxley and Nathanial James Pace, 23, of a Statesboro address, with kidnapping, armed robbery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and cruelty to animals. The latter charge stems from the reported killing of a pet of Strudgeon’s. Police also filed an aggravated battery charge against Cray and a felony burglary charge against Pace.

Tyler Strudgeon and his mother also attended Tuesday evening’s council meeting. After Sean Strudgeon spoke, the other person who had signed up to speak during the “public comments” portion of the meeting was Craig Bonnell, an attorney who is a friend of the Strudgeons.

Although his law office is in Effingham County, Bonnell is also a Chatham resident. But he noted that he has one daughter who is a graduate of Georgia Southern and another who is a student there now, living in off-campus housing.

“I think you probably all know what happened to Tyler Strudgeon,” Bonnell said. “We’re not here tonight to discuss what happened to him. We’re here tonight to bring to your attention to issues that have arisen as a result of what happened. …

“Specifically, Tyler had no idea that he was moving into what may appropriately be called a high-crime area,” he continued. “Tyler had no knowledge that he was renting a house that had been the host of crimes in the past.”

 

Landlord disclosure

Bonnell asked the mayor and council to consider an ordinance that would require landlords seeking tenants to disclose crimes that have occurred at a residence or in the neighborhood. He also suggested requiring landlords to make potential renters aware of the SPD crime map.

Additionally, he asked City Council to consider enacting an ordinance requiring landlords to give a tenant “an out from a lease when that lessee is the victim of … a serious crime.”

After what happened, Tyler Strudgeon had no intention of living in the apartment, but the landlord originally had different ideas, according to Bonnell.

“The lessor of the home that he was in told him essentially, ‘Gee, we’re real sorry what happened to you, but we’re not letting you out of that lease,’” Bonnell said.

He went on to say that Strudgeon’s “specific situation may be in the process of being addressed,” so that he can get out of the lease.

But Bonnell asked the mayor and council to consider requiring an escape clause for residential renters in general and said the city officials could discuss and decide what qualifies as a serious crime.

No known examples

At this point, the mayor and council have not asked City Attorney Cain Smith to research or develop an ordinance like those Strudgeon and Bonnell requested.

“I’m not aware of any local government in Georgia having such ordinances, nor have the petitioners provided such ordinances to review,” Smith said when asked Wednesday.

He noted that a state law requires landlords and real estate agents to answer truthfully when a prospective tenant asks if a homicide or other felony has occurred at a dwelling.

This law, 44-1-16 in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, requires answering “to the best of that person's individual knowledge," but only if the prospective tenant asks. It does not require that property owners or their agents volunteer the information.

The same requirement applies to suicides and deaths by accidental and natural causes known to have occurred and whether previous occupants have been infected with diseases "highly unlikely to be transmitted through the occupancy of a dwelling."

Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.

 

 

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