Helping The Public Understand Code Enforcement Operations
Calling Code Enforcement is very different then calling the Police.
The public expectation is to see immediate results. This usually occurs, in some form, when a citizen calls for the assistance of a Police Officer. This is not normally the case when calling for a Code Enforcement Officer.
Private property rights are some of the most valued, protected and important things the constitution provides to citizens of the United States. Each state has laws and statutes which describe how code enforcement operations must operate. These laws are designed to protect property owners, business owners and individuals against illegal and/or unconstitutional activity on the part of the governemnt. At the same time, they also provide governemnt with a set of guidelines to abate, correct and remove danger or public nuisances that impact the health, safety and welfare of citizens and communities. Health and safety are obvious. Welfare can mean many things including the economic stability of a community, the value of residential and commercial property within a comminity and finally the blight and crime-rate of a over-all community. If commercial and retail establishments are allowed to neglect their required landscaping...that neglect can actually impact every citizens property values. Worse yet, something as simple as neglected commercial landscaping can result in a blighted appearance which results in a higher crime-rate. Property values dropping = blight = crime! Often, citizens think of code enforcement in a negative way because their trailer or boat or old car seem trivial and not worth the attention they are receiving from a code officer. Actually, allowing even minor infractions to exist relates back to the whole bigger picture. The citizen may feel the violation is trivial but in reality everybody will suffer economically and in regard to safety resulting from crime.
Unlike the police Code Officers are on their own. There are no reports to forward to a detective. There are no detectives to forward their findings to a prosecutor. The code officer is the responding officer / complaint investigator. The code officer is the investigator / detective. The code officer is the prosecutor. Every 'i' must be dotted and every 't' crossed. The letter of the law must be followed. Individuals, property owners, tenants, business owners, corporate entities all msut be notified, cited, copied and provided with compliance time-frames prior to public hearings, fines, liens etc... Often, a rental property or commercial property is owned by a business, owned by a business whcih is owned by a business while at the same time is occupied by a tenant. The tenant may even be a small local operation of a even bigger out-of-state business owned by a business. These 'corporations' all have a legal registered agents which also must be notified. property research invloves researching deeds, mortgages and other recorded documents, usually on a county level. This can e very time consuming. Something as simple as a junk car in a yard can wind up consuming 4 hours of research followed by all the notifications and further encumbered by a compliance time...all the while a complaining citizen thinks nothing is being done!
Here is aa sample of things a code officer may respond to on any given day:
JUNK / INOPERABLE VEHICLES, RODENT / INSECT INFESTATIONS, ZONING VIOLATIONS, SITE-PLAN / COMMERCIAL OR H.O.A. LANDSCAPE AND CONDITIONS VIOLATIONS, TOO MANY PEOPLE OCCUPYING A SINGLE FAMILY DWELLING, A SINGLE FAMILY DWELLING BEING USED AS A MULTI-FAMILY DWELLING, ILLEGAL DUMPING, STREET-SPAM NUISANCE ROADWAY SIGNAGE, PERSONS LIVING WITHOUT WATER OR ELECTRIC UTILITIES, UNSAFE STRUCTURE CONDITIONS, TOXIC CHEMICAL STORAGE OR DUMPING, UNLICENSED BUSINESS, UNLICENSED CONTRACTOR, CONSTRUCTION WITHOUT A PERMIT, OVERGROWN TALL WEEDS AND GRASS, LANDLORD VS TENANT SITUATIONS, UNSANITARY SWIMMING POOLS, OPEN ACCESS TO ABANDONED SWIMMING POOLS, UNSECURED ATTRATIVE NUISANCES ON COMMERCIAL AND RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY, HOMELESS PERSONS OCCUPYING A VACANT STRUCTURE, HOMELESS PERSONS CAMPED OUT ON PRIVATE PROPERTY, THEFT OF PUBLIC UTILITIES, UNSANITARY LIVING CONDITIONS....THE LIST GOES ON AND ON, AND ON, AND ON.
Citizens who make a code complaint often remain anonymous out of fear or some other rerason. Anonymous complainants have the hardest time checking the status of a complaint. Even anonymous citizens should call-in and request the e-mail or cel-phone number of the officer assigned the call. A citizen can contact a code officer w/o revealing their identitiy and receive information on the status of a complaint.