SOUTH MIAMI (CBS4) – “It’s a constant struggle,” South Miami Code Enforcement Director Carmen Baker said as she surveyed three, boarded-up houses on Southwest 60th Avenue that are abandoned “magnets” for crime and vermin.
South Miami is engaging in aggressive code enforcement efforts targeting abandoned or neglected structures, many of which are foreclosures owned by banks that Baker said “have not done a good job” of looking after their repossessed properties.
The city has targeted the three dilapidated homes on 60th Avenue for demolition in the coming weeks, after some 8 months of enforcement efforts that have been ignored by the owners.
Baker said “drug dealers and squatters” use abandoned properties for illegal activity and that the eyesores are a, “burden on good neighbors who take care of their property and want to live in an attractive neighborhood.”
South Miami Police Major Rene Landa said police and code enforcement have worked hand in hand to combat the issue.
“When it comes to abandoned homes and buildings in our community, we’re going to take action on them,” Landa said. “”We’ve been in some of these homes and found stolen property and drug paraphernalia. People have burned some of the homes down while smoking drugs.”
Landa said the city moves quickly to board up problem properties and then check them on a regular basis to make sure they’re not being illegally reoccupied.
Code enforcement’s Baker said the city is working cases involving about 25 houses at any given time. Officials are levying fines and expenses against owners and banks who who have failed to maintain the properties.
Baker said the city will “absolutely” try to get its money back from the property owners. Liens have been assessed against the properties for the thousands of dollars in expenses and fines being accumulated. The liens must be satisfied when the property is eventually sold.
“If that lien is not taken care of when the bank takes over, the bank has to answer to the city,” Baker said. “These are taxpayers’ dollars…that must be repaid.”
Jannie Mae Ferguson, who lives in a nicely kept home adjacent to the abandoned, neglected properties said she has been afraid to come out of her house.
“At night, I close my door. I don’t come out,” Ferguson said. “I’m so happy that they’re going to tear them down.”
This article is one in a CBS4 series entitled “Project Broken Window.” The new initiative will highlight efforts by communities to combat crime and improve the quality of life. For more on the program, click here.