CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The University of North Carolina at Charlotte website advertises options for students who want to live off campus. Up to 16 different properties pay to be on the site.
"The university doesn't endorse these properties, but we do have a strong partnership," said Sean Langley, assistant director of Off Campus Housing.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department found the partnership may set students up for a dangerous situation.
"Some of our student housing properties, instead of being the safest like they should be, they were among the most dangerous," said Lt. Dave Johnson with CMPD University Division.
In a recent study, CMPD found 53 percent of its major crimes happen in neighborhoods like the one containing apartment complexes around the university.
"The ones we're most concerned about were the violent crimes, the robberies, the home invasions, the assaults," Johnson said.
About 37 percent of those crimes come from rent-by-the-room complexes, oftentimes a cheaper option for students.
"You can rent a bedroom for $300 or $400 a month, have access to a kitchen, a living room," Langley said.
Police said it's risky when students are matched with people looking for a cheap place to live.
"Many times these non-students that were being housed with the students had criminal histories. They were on probation. In some cases, they were drug dealers moving in to set up shop," Johnson said.
The university expects more apartment complexes to be built as the university grows.
Right now, UNCC has 26,000 students enrolled, and university leaders said they want 35,000 students by 2018.
They believe they'll make that goal, which is why getting a handle on this issue is so important.
University leaders and CMPD came up with the "Niner's Choice" program.
"Their benefit is they get to promote their apartment complexes on our website and our students have an easy way to find off-campus housing options," Langley said.
The program requires apartment complexes to have student-only units, on-site security officers and quarterly property management meetings with police.
If they meet those requirements, then they are certified as a Niner's Choice complex, and can advertise on the school's off-campus housing website.
"I kind of wanted to go the cheap route and save money so I just decided to move here," said UNCC student Brandon Funderburk.
He said he could have used guidance when choosing a safe place to live.
"My mom would flip if she saw this place," Funderburk said.
Officials are hoping Niner's Choice will inform more parents and ensure more students have safer choices.
The Niner's Choice program will go into effect Jan. 1. One complex called 49 North Apartments has already made changes. It invested $2 million into security. Crime there has already dropped 35 percent.
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