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Orange County Focus

BUENA PARK : Code Enforcement Strengthening OKd

August 31, 1994|LESLEY WRIGHT

Building code enforcement officials won City Council approval to strengthen a plan to target run-down neighborhoods where blight and crime seem to fester.

Council members approved Monday a 12-month trial program but requested a review after three months. They said they were nervous because devoting time to targeted areas would mean a less vigorous response to minor but important violations such as cars on lawns and trash cans in public view.

As the plan was originally conceived in 1991, officers were to quickly check out calls from the public and, on their own initiative, patrol the city's most troubled neighborhoods looking for blight.

Back then, to get the program started, the council doubled the enforcement staff from one to two officers, added certain nuisances to the city code, hired a city prosecutor and stepped up enforcement.

However, code enforcement officers were quickly swamped with calls from complaining neighbors. "We respond to virtually every complaint we get in the office," said Rick Warsinski, assistant director of development services.

Because of the heavy volume of calls, officers were too busy to undertake the second part of the program--going into targeted neighborhoods on their own to search for blight.

The council Monday agreed to assign one officer to work full time on specific neighborhoods and to respond to some minor complaints with letters rather than personal visits.

The plan will take a task-force approach, officials said. Police, fire, public works and other public officials who routinely come across tenants living in poor conditions will inform code enforcement officers of violations.

The program, which begins in January, will coincide with a new Police Department policy that trains officers to contact other agencies when they find violations outside their own expertise.

If officers enter an apartment on a domestic violence call and see stopped-up sinks and toilets, they will know which agencies to call, Police Chief Richard M. Tefank said.

At that point, code enforcement officers would have greater ability to go after the largely absentee landlords who own these buildings.

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