(TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Angela V. McKnight, Nicholas Chiaravalloti and Jamel Holley that would require high-rise apartment buildings for seniors that are located in high crime areas to provide 24-hour security.

“Everyone deserves to feel safe in their homes. Sadly, if you live in an area with rampant criminal activity, that feeling can be fleeting,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “Seniors are often seen as easy targets by criminals. Having 24-hour security in these buildings can help prevent bad individuals from getting in, and give residents a much needed sense of security in their own homes.”

“As rent payers, these residents have a right to feel safe,” said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “Having a security guard posted in these buildings can help prevent unwanted individuals from getting inside and causing trouble. A building owner may not be able to prevent what goes on outside the building, but should provide tenants with a sense of security inside the building.”

“Security is integral whether you live in a house or an apartment building. In neighborhoods where crime is a problem, even more so,” said Holley (D-Union). “Seniors are especially vulnerable because many live alone and criminals see them as easy marks. Having around the clock security can help keep people with bad intentions out, and give these tenants some much needed peace of mind.”

The bill (A-3431) would require the owners of senior citizen high-rise buildings with 50 units or more to provide 24-hour security, if the building is located in a municipality with a violent crime rate exceeding six per 1,000 persons, according to the average of the three most recent Uniform Crime Reports issued by the New Jersey State Police.

If the building consists of 75 dwelling units or more, the security obligation must be met through 24-hour monitoring by on-site security guards. If the building consists of at least 50, but fewer than 75 dwelling units, this obligation may be satisfied through the use of video surveillance cameras operated 24 hours a day, recording all building exits and entrances, as well as any common areas, including parking lots, where criminal incidents have occurred within the past 12 months.

The Commissioner of Community Affairs, in consultation with the Attorney General, would be responsible for annually notifying the owners of those buildings of their security obligations under the law. The Commissioner of Community Affairs could order a building owner in a municipality with a violent crime rate of six or less per 1,000 persons to provide security in the lobby or other common area upon evidence of persistent criminal activity against residents in the building.

The bill also gives the commissioner the power to issue regulations concerning the security of residents in lobbies and interior common areas of hotels and multiple dwellings in general.

The bill has a delayed operative dare of about six months to allow time for the promulgation of rules, regulations and notices.

The bill was released by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee.