JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The city of Jonesboro announced at their city council meeting that over 50 homes have been condemned this year alone and nearly all of those demolished as well. This number doubles the amount of homes condemned in the city last year.
As we learned, the driving force behind that spike in numbers was through a relatively new division of the Jonesboro Police Department that makes it their goal to better the city for all residents.
"In the Quality of Life Unit, we try to improve the look of a neighborhood...the appearance of a neighborhood," Lt. Todd Nelson explained to Region 8 News.
Nelson said that's one principle they department works under as they prevent crime through a number of means.
"The consequences of criminal activity go beyond incarceration," he said. "It could be the loss of personal property, it could be eviction, file a lawsuit for nuisance abatement for people that own their home and commit crimes habitually. We can also, we work with the Jonesboro Urban Renewal and Housing Authority and they can actually remove somebody from the system based on criminal activity."
Having been in operation for a year now, Lt. Nelson said an area the department wanted to tackle to help prevent crime was housing.
"We tentatively set a mark for 50 houses that we would like to see either brought up to code or removed," Nelson said.
Already through their efforts, 50 dilapidated homes have been removed and three were brought back up to code through the standards of Jonesboro Code Enforcement.
"We would much rather see a nice, older home that kinda brings something to a neighborhood brought up to code than just to see it torn down," Nelson said.
However, he explained run down areas push most law-abiding citizens out.
"If it's inviting to normal people, it's probably not inviting to criminals and vice versa."
Part of their job is to make sure Jonesboro is not attractive to criminals.
"With the broken window theory of law enforcement...that physical disorder detracts from the entire neighborhood so yeah, those houses that are in that bad of shape just bring down the entire neighborhood," Nelson said.
Though they did hit that earmark of 50 homes to be taken down or brought to code, Lt. Nelson said they will continue to inspect homes brought to their attention.
The Quality of Life Unit has also recently started a free program working with rental property owners on how to have crime-free multi-housing.
Lt. Nelson explained to obtain the status, the three step process starts with a free meeting. The next meeting is on November 20 at the Jonesboro Police Department. The Quality of Life Unit will follow up with property owners on what they can do to address safety issues and reduce the risk or fear of crime.
Lt. Nelson said the third step is having the property manager have a social gathering for their tenants, also attended by the Quality of Life Unit.
"In where it's worked before, they've seen a reduced number of calls for service, reduced number of crimes on the property as well as an increase in property values, a decrease in maintenance cost and a more satisfied tenant base," Nelson explained. "It's actually profitable for them to participate."