Team approach targets citys problem properties
WHO YA GONNA CALL?
September 2, 2007
By Matthew Stone CORRESPONDENT
Reprinted from the Worcester Telegram article
WORCESTER District 4 City Councilor Barbara G.
Haller maintains that change is afoot in the city when
it comes to cracking down on delinquent landlords and
targeting what she calls persistent problem properties.
I think were on to something in the city,
Ms. Haller said.
In the past year, she said, a number of problem properties
she had been monitoring in her district, which includes
the rental properties and lodging house-dominated Main
South neighborhood, have turned around. Some landlords
have cleaned up their acts, bringing their properties
into compliance with health code regulations. Others
have ejected tenants known to cause disturbances in
District 4 City Councilor Barbara G. Haller,
shown standing along Sycamore Street, says problems in
this area and several others in the city have decreased
with the efforts of the reorganized Code Enforcement division
that combines data with the police and fire departments
and helps identify and target problem properties. (T&G
Staff / CHRISTINE PETERSON)
Where there have been persistent problem properties,
for the most part theres been positive resolution of
the problems, Ms. Haller said. I dont believe
thats been coincidental.
The turnaround at some notorious properties comes a year
after the city released plans to step up housing code enforcement
efforts, with plans for a new hire to take charge of a new
division within the citys Code Enforcement operation.
Since being named the citys director of housing enforcement
last December, Amanda M. Wilson has begun overseeing efforts
to coordinate work between multiple departments to identify
and target properties that repeatedly appear on city and neighborhood
association radar screens for causing problems.
The Housing Enforcement division is a reorganization of resources
already in place within Code Enforcement.
The Problem Property Resolution Team, which has representatives
from Code Enforcement and the citys police and fire
departments, encourages collaboration between the departments
in hopes of helping the city identify problem properties as
well as those on the verge of falling into that category.
Were working independently from each other and
we really want to have a unified enforcement team, said
Ms. Wilson, who oversees PPRT.
The property team also includes housing inspector John Nordberg,
Fire Inspector John N. Danna, police Sgt. Anthony M. Petrone
and police Officer Michael A. Girardi. The officials expect
to take up their property team duties full time once the team
takes more definitive shape.
The Problem Property Resolution Team builds on the City Managers
Enforcement Team, a full-time squad of health and code inspectors
that has been in place since the early 1990s. Unlike CMET,
the new property team features a permanent police component
and focuses on joint inspections rather than separate inspections
by officials from each division.
What we took is what we already had in place under
CMET, Ms. Wilson said. We reinvigorated that and
added the police back into the formula.
The team will receive its next boost in the coming months
when the city expects to roll out a data-oriented computer
program that combines police, fire, and Code Enforcement databases.
The software will make it easier for officials from all departments
to identify properties that have been persistently called
to the attention of multiple city departments, officials say.
A housing code inspectors access to police and fire
data, for example, can alert the Housing Enforcement division
that a particular property in violation of safety code also
has received police attention for noise disturbances and drug
activity, information that previously would not have been
available to housing inspectors.
The software will identify a set of factors that a property
might meet to be considered a problem property. The number
of times police have been called for noise complaints, the
number of Housing Court disputes attached to a property, the
number of health and fire code violations, and other factors
will be used to generate a number rating, Ms.
Properties will be able to get a number rating based
on violations in the past, based on involvement from other
departments and the severity of that involvement, she
The properties that meet a particular threshold could attract
the Problem Property Resolution Teams attention before
they become major nuisances, Ms. Wilson said, and allow the
team more time with the property owners and talk to
them about, Listen, the occupants you have, you need
to evict them, because theyve been problematic.
Officials say property owners need to take responsibility
for the activities of their tenants.
Its ultimately their responsibility, Officer
After years in which landlords have ignored Code Enforcement
and Housing Court orders to clean up their properties for
code violations, Ms. Haller is convinced that the citys
actions are getting property owners to acknowledge their responsibilities.
The message has been getting out to those owners that
you can run but you cant hide, Ms. Haller said.