Cracking down on crime with building code enforcement - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Cracking down on crime with building code enforcement

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -  Cracking down on crime with building code inspections is a recent initiative with the Chattanooga police department and city building inspectors.

The city's proposed 2016 budget asks for $65,000 for code enforcement -- $50,000 would go towards demolition funds and $15,000 would help fund two existing code inspector positions assigned to the police department full-time.

Otis Pollard has lived in Chattanooga's St. Elmo neighborhood for nearly 20 years, and it seems like he can't go on a walk without seeing a sign that says "condemned."

"It's really a shame," said Pollard, pointing out nearby homes that stick out among the rest -- overgrown, uncared for, and unsafe.

"If the city doesn't do anything, they'll go further and further down," he said.

But the city is cracking down on code enforcement violations and negligent property owners who let their property go.

After taking over as police chief last summer, one of Chief Fred Fletcher's initiatives was partnering with the city's code inspectors.

"What offends the neighborhood should be important to us as public servants," Fletcher said.

Often times, code violations and crime can be interconnected. The most recent example occurred at a house on East 17th street. A codes violation check led to several prostitution arrests.

"We do find that greater crimes, more violent crimes, do tend to congregate around lesser crimes," said Fletcher.

But sometimes police are limited with action they can take, which can allow criminal activity to continue for weeks or even years.

If both code violations and criminal activity exist, the property can be condemned or demolished immediately.

"We are in no means trying to circumvent any constitutional rights or obligations. We remain absolutely committed to that. We would never use that as any sort of a shortcut," Fletcher said. "But there are many things that are not to the level of a police criminal enforcement matter that do cause disorder in a neighborhood."

To report a code enforcement issue in your neighborhood, call Chattanooga 311 or alert the police department.
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