Hattiesburg Code Enforcement is moving forward with over a dozen properties the city deemed "unsafe" and "unhealthy" for the community.
In a public hearing on June 5th, the 17 properties were deemed a menace to the community, with City Council giving Code Enforcement the ability to continue the process of cleaning up or clearing the properties in violation.
Of the 17 properties, violations included vacant spaces, overgrown lots, dangerous structures and open storage. Code Enforcement Division Manager Mark Jordan said most of properties were abandoned homes.
"Our primary role is to protect residential property values, keep neighborhood safe, and help residents understand there are certain rights they have as a private property owner," said Jordan. "But, the city, the municipality also has to look out as a whole."
The 17 structures were located on Katie Avenue, Arnold Street, Dabb Street, Harrell Street, Tuscan Avenue, Breland Street, Oak Street, Longstreet Drive, E 7th Street, E Laurel Avenue, Gravel Street, Golf Course Drive and Beverly Hills Road. Nine of those were recommended for demolition.
"Our goal is not to take out homes, but its to clear violations to get the property owners to understand the importance of maintaining their properties," said Jordan.
Jordan said the vacant or abandoned properties can play a big role in crime and residents safety.
"If you have a vacant structure, we know historically what that attracts is crime. So we try to help our local law enforcement by making sure those homeowners board those up to make sure illegal activities won't take safe," said Jordan. "Vagrancy is another problem our community faces with vacant structures. So safety for the citizens in that particular area is our number one concern."
The health of residents is also a concern. Jordan said the number one complaint they receive in the summer months is overgrown lots or open storage.
"We have snakes and that's how they travel, through the grass, ditches and your yard," said Jordan. "Snakes bring rodents and they are always looking for cover."
Jordan said the lots can also be a breeding ground for mosquitoes, especially with rain and area for the puddles to form.
In the city, grass is not supposed to be higher than six inches. Jordan said they are not out with a ruler, but have officers patrolling the neighborhoods. He said most of the complaints that lead to violations come from the public and those complaints remain anonymous.
Jordan said with any violation, they will start with a verbal notice. If necessary, that could move to a citation ranging from $100 to $600.
Right now, the city is promoting a "Good Neighbor Campaign," asking resident to not only keep their property maintained, but help any neighbors who may struggle with cleaning their yards.
"If you see your neighbor can't mow their grass or see the stuff piling up in the driveway, go to them and talk to them and maybe help them so we can help one another," said Jordan.