Government Law

Cutting-Edge Code Enforcement Program Uses Secret Citizen Volunteers to Issue Notices to Neighbors

Once upon a time, at least in theory, neighbors talked to each other about any issues they perceived with property upkeep. And, in a really egregious situation that posed a safety hazard or had been a long-standing nuisance, they might call the city to complain.

But some cash-strapped cities are trying a new approach to deal with issues such as unmowed lawns and trash put out for collection in a manner that conflicts with municipal rules. Among them is Hollywood, Fla., where trained volunteers, whose identities will be kept secret out of fear of retribution, are notifying neighbors of such violations under a pilot program, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.

Although the notices will serve only as a warning, offenders will be issued citations on the spot if a city employee has to follow up and finds the problem uncorrected.

While some see the approach as an opportunity to help keep neighborhoods nice and maintain property values without undue expense, others worry that it will create bad blood among residents.

“I wish people would police themselves a little bit more,” said Brian Kett, a 15-year resident of one of the Hollywood neighborhoods where the pilot program is under way. “The one-on-one thing, it’s never going to turn out well. I don’t think it would foster good, neighborly relationships if I posted a violation on my neighbor’s door.”

Similar programs are in effect in Garden Grove and Monterey Park, Calif.; Port St. Lucie, Fla.; and Austin, Texas.

Related coverage: “Jailed Over Brown Lawn, 66-Year-Old Returns Home to Beautiful Yard” “What Is a Weed? Mich. Judge Decides, Upholds $100 Lawn Ticket” “Criminal Charges Over Mich. Woman’s Front-Yard Vegetable Garden Are Dropped”

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