LEMOORE — Lemoore police have had some success with a recent law aimed at dealing with properties where officers get repeated calls for service.
The Lemoore City Council adopted an ordinance in March aimed at addressing so-called nuisance properties. Under the new rule, a property is considered a chronic nuisance when three or more nuisance activities occur or exist during a 90-day period.
Nuisance activities could include any criminal conduct as defined by state law or local ordinance, which can include anything from property maintenance issues to more serious crimes like assault, domestic violence or drug-related activity.
Lemoore police Chief Darrell Smith said the city has issued warning letters to 75 property owners since the ordinance went into effect.
“I’m proud to say that we have not had to go to the second step with any of those except one,” Smith said.
The one property is a residence with ongoing property maintenance issues, Smith said. Smith said the next step is a progression of fines that increase each time police respond to the property. Those fines can grow up to as much as $500 per violation.
“A lot of times, if it’s a rental property, we get compliance immediately after we contact the landlord,” Smith said.
Smith said the ordinance has been used to address issues including property maintenance like abandoned vehicles, weeds, as well as some criminal or potential criminal violations. He did not have a breakdown of which violations were associated with each of the 75 cases.
Visalia has a similar policy as part of its SMART (Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant Time-bound) program. The city’s municipal code designates a property to be a public nuisance after more than six police and/or fire calls, other than medical emergencies, are received during a one-year period.
Meanwhile, Hanford continues to use other means to deal with nuisance properties.
Hanford City Manager Darrel Pyle said the city has been able to deal with problem properties using code enforcement and the city’s Problem Oriented Policing (POP) officers. He was not sure what advantages the nuisance property ordinance would provide.
Pyle said the city demolished a house on South Irwin Street last week amid repeated reports of drug activity, vagrancy vandalism and other crimes. Pyle said some neighbors had even reported gunshots from the home.
“There were naughty people doing naughty things inside this house,” Pyle said.
Pyle said the city had contacted the property owner in the past. The owner boarded up the house, but that proved to only be a short-term solution. A few months ago, the city began to push to have the house razed.
“It was completely uninhabitable,” Pyle said.
The owner agreed that the house needed to be demolished but didn’t know how to go about it. Pyle said the city agreed to do the work.
Pyle said he was meeting with representatives from Self Help Enterprises on Thursday to discuss a possible partnership to build affordable housing on the South Irwin Street lot and other similar properties.
Councilman Francisco Ramirez, who represents the area, said the house had been problematic to residents for about six years. Ramirez said it took about four or five months to take care of the house after the city got involved.
Ramirez said he hopes to address other nuisance properties, including an apartment complex he said has had reports of multiple shootings.
“We’re going to be looking at other houses in my district,” Ramirez said.
Smith said Lemoore has not had many issues with criminals occupying abandoned buildings. He said police typically work with city building inspectors to address those types of properties.