Griffin Code Enforcement statistics indicate low ratio of citations to warnings

SHEILA MATHEWS :::

Griffin’s Code Enforcement initiative doubling to four the number of officers enforcing city ordinances will begin Feb. 1.

Citing the Broken Window theory, which is frequently associated with community oriented policing, officials have promoted the increased effort as a plan that will reduce crime.

“If the first broken window in a building is not repaired, the people who like breaking windows will assume that no one cares about the building and more windows will be broken. Soon the building will have no windows,” theorized James Q. Wilson, a political scientist who coined the Broken Window principle and promoted the concept of community policing.

City Manager Kenny Smith described it as a potential scenario where first, a property’s grass and hedges become overgrown, which is first an eyesore indicative of inattentiveness and lack of concern and makes it a target for theft. That leads to a reduction in nearby property value resulting in other owners selling their properties and the location becoming a rental area.

This process of deterioration, he said, can then result in the area becoming a haven for criminal activity.

Primarily, this would relate to property crime, but Smith said it can escalate into personal crime, as well.

“Criminals are like water – they take the path of least resistance,” Smith said, describing desire, ability and opportunity as the three factors necessary for crime to occur. He believes increasing code enforcement efforts, which will reduce blight and substandard housing, will result in a lower overall crime rate.

“It’s just the norm that renters aren’t as interested in the maintenance and upkeep as someone who’s invested in the property, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” Smith said. “Just because you’re a renter doesn’t mean you have to let your property go. Just because someone rents doesn’t mean they’re in any different class in society.”

Smith said the Code Enforcement initiative is not intended to reduce the rental population, but rather to address all those who do not comply with the community’s standards, whether renters, owner-occupiers or businesses.

City officials now categorize Code Enforcement complaints according to the Police Department’s Zones 1-4, and The Grip analyzed enforcement activity from Jan. 1, 2011 through Nov. 30, 2013.

This analysis showed 11,363 warnings were issued during that 35 month period, but only 259 citations were written.

Zone 1 was the most active area with 3,637 warnings and 92 citations issued; Zone 2 came in with 1,532 warnings and 17 citations; Zone 3 registered 2,835 citations and 54 warnings; and Zone 4 totaled 3,459 warnings and 96 citations.

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With a ratio of less than 2.3 percent of citations to warnings, Smith was asked if that disproportionality indicates a lack of follow up on warnings issued or a high compliance rate.

“Ideally there is follow up to each warning, but realistically, due to the overwhelming number, the follow up is not as consistent as it should be. However, there is a substantial compliance, especially in regard to the minor violations,” Smith said.

Many city officials have cited the desire to clean up the city and reduce blight and substandard housing as a number one priority, and Smith has indicated that was the impetus for the 2011 Code Enforcement Task Force.

Between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30, 2011, Code Enforcement activity totaled 2,417 warnings and 57 citations – an average of 50.35 warnings and 1.19 citations weekly.

Asked if the issuance of so few citations is representative of a significant blight and substandard housing issue, and if it is indicative of the need to double the number of Code Enforcement officers from two to four, Smith said yes, the manpower increase is necessary.

“In addition, many issues are handled informally without written warnings,” he said. Ω

 

 

 

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