Police department to crack down on code violations

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The Craig Police Department will be looking at alleys, trash areas and backyards within the city to make sure residents are complying with city codes as far as the removal of trash, old appliances, abandoned vehicles and clutter.

The new focus is based on policies and statutes already in place and, after a recent inspection of alleys, needs to be done, Craig Police Records Technician and Code Enforcement Officer Becky Otis said.

"We want to give people a chance to look at the alleys, trash areas and backyards," Otis said. "The alleys and trash areas need to get picked up and have the weeds cut down, and people need to get rid of junk cars and discarded appliances. The front yards (in the city) and most of the backyards look great, but the alleys need a lot of attention."

Otis said she drove through the alleys in the area between Green Street and Washington Street from Seventh Street to Eighth Street on Tuesday and saw numerous code violations. No warnings or tickets were offered because Otis said she first wanted to give residents a chance to look at their property and handle the problems themselves, she said.

Otis has been the code enforcement officer since May 1, taking over the position after Office Mike Anthony left the department to join the Moffat County Sheriff's Office.

The majority of the problems are old appliances, junk cars, tires and overgrown and dirty trash areas. A "junk car" is a vehicle that is not currently registered and does not run.

The effort to get residents to remove the abandoned refrigerators, freezers, washers, dryers and cars and clean up trash and weeds is based on safety, wildlife and aesthetic issues. Old refrigerator and freezers are a safety risk for small children, washers and dryers can create animal habitat, and weeds and trash attract wildlife like skunks into an area, Otis said.

"Since I've been the code enforcement officer, I haven't written a ticket," Otis said. "People have been very nice and have responded to the letters (addressing a code problem) we've sent out."

Failure to comply with a code enforcement notice can lead to fines of up to $300, and the possible cost of hiring an attorney should the violator have to go to court. The idea is to get property owners into compliance, not to punish someone for not being in compliance, Craig City Attorney Sherman Romney said.

"Generally, we're not looking to punish anyone, we're looking to resolve the problem most tickets are dismissed after an agreement is made," Romney said. "Most people we deal with directly, and work out a way to get the (property) into compliance."

The owners of rental properties are ultimately responsible for the condition of the residences, Otis said.

Objections to the new focus or problems with compliance aren't expected, Craig Police Capt. Jerry Delong said.

"I don't think we'll have a renewed outcry or anything," he said. "And the biggest reason why is we're trying to have personal contact with everyone, and we try to help residents as much as we can to get them in compliance."

Otis said there are options available to aid in code compliance for households that need assistance in removing or disposing materials marked during code patrols.

For more information or questions about code compliance, call Otis at the Moffat County Public Safety Center at 826-2360.

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