City to make code violations civil, not criminal

New pilot program targets illegal dumping, trash in yards

Author: Myra Arthur, Reporter, Anchor,
Published On: Sep 18 2012 05:39:26 PM CDT   Updated On: Sep 18 2012 06:37:35 PM CDT

If a new pilot program is successful, code violations could be considered a civil offense instead of a criminal one.

The city’s Development Services Department will implement the program city-wide targeting illegal dumping and trash and debris in yards for a period of three months.

Currently, code violations are considered a criminal offense which can take up to four months to remedy through the municipal court system.

Under the new program, a hearing would be set 15 days from the time a civil citation is written.

“What we'll do on the code side is go out the day before the hearing to see if they cleaned it up or not, and report that to the hearing officer,” said Rod Sanchez, director of the development services department. “If they've cleaned it up, there's no issue. The hearing officer will dismiss the case and there will probably be a small fine."

That fee would be minimal if there is one at all, Sanchez adds.

The fines are determined by the hearing officer and can be up to $1,000 per day.

The pilot program sets aside a portion of that money for violators who need help with clean-up, such as the elderly or the indigent.

"The fund is set up to address issues like that where assistance is provided to get that property cleaned up or get it into compliance,” said Judge John Bull, who supports the pilot program.

The mission of the program is to get faster results, the city says.

"The neighbors that have this issue of trash and debris are going to see that removed from those properties a lot quicker,” Sanchez said.

Criminal citations could still be issued for repeat offenders or those with the most serious violations.

The proposal goes before the city’s Public Safety Council next week and will be presented for the City Council’s approval in less than a month.