Craig community service officers reflect on busy summer
September 30, 2010
Community service officer Jill Nelson said some residents "might not have a clue" about the amount of work done by the Craig Police Department's community service officers.
"Sometimes, I don't think that the general public notices the success that we (have) because they're not seeing all the individual yards, for instance, that we have dealt with," said Nelson, one of three community service officers. "They might just see their neighbors' (yards), and that might not be where there are issues."
Nelson and the department's other officers, Connie Davis and Josh Wright, are tasked with enforcing city regulations on junk, trash, abandoned vehicles, grass and weeds. They also handle animal and parking complaints, among other calls for service.
As the weather cools, the officers are starting to see a reduction in the amount of code enforcement calls received compared to the summer months — the busiest time of the year for the department, Nelson said.
"Summers are just really insane busy," Davis said.
But, she said this summer was a success for the department.
The department responded to 701 calls for service, including various code enforcement and animal complaints, from June through August, Nelson said.
Among the more memorable calls the three responded to during the summer included a horse loose in Craig City Park, a goat running down north Yampa Avenue and helping remove a large bird trapped in a resident's sun porch.
"One of the aspects we love about this job is that when you come to work, you never know what is going to happen," Davis said.
Despite never knowing what they may be faced with on a daily basis, the three officers set goals they wanted to accomplish during the summer.
One of the department's main goals was targeting noxious weeds in west Craig, Nelson said.
"We had a lot of properties involved in that and got great compliance, which will hopefully make a big difference for future years," she said.
The department responded to 153 weed calls over the summer, which included overgrown yards, according to statistics.
Officers also responded to 40 junk and trash calls, and 63 calls for code violations.
Animal complaints, however, occupied most of the department's time, including impounds, barking dogs and animal bites. The department responded to 387 animal complaints over the summer.
"There has been speculation that perhaps the current economy has contributed to it," Nelson said of the number of animal calls. "People possibly are not seeking their pets when they get lost because they can't afford to keep them, but I really don't know."
Davis said part of the summer's increase in department activity stems from having three full-time officers doing more code enforcement patrolling.
With the summer's increase in code enforcement activities, however, comes an equal increase in paperwork, more "than most people would imagine," Nelson said.
"Unfortunately, it is not just going out and dealing with a property and being done," she said. "Having a full team also helps because you are sometimes stuck in the office to do the paperwork."
With summer now finished, the department is receiving fewer calls for code enforcement, but animal complaints are staying about the same, Nelson said.
The three officers have started to focus more of their time on following up with previous calls for service, Wright said.
Following up with code violations has helped the department bring issues into compliance, he said.
"If there was a reduced level of staffing, then you wouldn't be able to follow up on as many complaints and get the people to comply with it," Wright said.
If residents do not comply with code enforcement requests, the officers can issue a citation. The department issued six citations over the three summer months and two this month, Nelson said.
After a second citation, the department can hire someone to bring the matter into compliance, which officers were not forced to do during the summer.
"Generally, people have been working with us," Davis said.
Nelson said the department is trying to wrap up summer code violations "before the snow flies."
And, after the snow flies, the department should keep busy with parking enforcement for snow removal, Davis said.
"It's huge," she said. "Everybody parks on the street and they don't think about the snow plows going by."
But, Davis said the office is prepared for the coming months.
"We have a super strong team between the three of us in terms of just working together, and that has made it … go really smoothly," she said.