NEW PORT RICHEY — The city is battling neighborhood blight with code enforcement sweeps in New Port Richey’s most troubled neighborhoods.
Police officers are spearheading teams that target neighborhoods where piled-up trash, debris and overgrown lawns are the norm, according to New Port Richey Police Chief Kim Bogart.
Three full-time code enforcement officers who report to the police department are helping with the effort, Bogart said. The sweeps involve police officers, public works employees and building code officials who issue citations, condemn dilapidated structures and clean up trash.
In January, a team entered the Congress Mobile Home Park, south of Massachusetts Avenue. They issued 42 citations, opened 25 code violation cases, tagged three structures as uninhabitable and removed two truckloads of garbage from Candance, Char and Celeste lanes in the park, according to New Port Richey police Sgt. Erik Jay, who heads the department’s code enforcement squad.
"This is really about cleaning up neighborhoods," Jay said.
Residents of neighborhoods that were part of the sweep have noticed, Bogart said. He told the New Port Richey City Council last week he would not be surprised if some came forward to complain.
"It’s resulted in a lot of attention," Bogart said.
The police department plans to continue the sweeps, he said, and will tell neighborhoods before a sweep occurs.
"We don’t want to come off as the bully, but we want people to take pride in their communities," Bogart said.
This comes as the council passed an ordinance last week allowing code enforcement officers to more quickly cite repeat code offenders. Prior to the ordinance, officers had to inform an offender and allow a reasonable period of time for them to correct the problem before issuing a citation. Under the new ordinance, officers can waive that "reasonable" time period for repeat violators and in situations that pose an immediate threat to the public’s welfare.
"This is going to give us the ability to handle these issues in a much more timely fashion," Bogart said. "In so many cases, we are dealing with the same people over and over and over again. It gets very frustrating."