SAN ANTONIO – Since it began in 2007, the city of San Antonio's Dangerous Assessment Response Team estimates it has targeted at least 461 nuisance properties, including drug houses, prostitution motels, apartment slums, dilapidated houses and other problem properties.
"We go after the worst of the worst," said Jose Nino, deputy city attorney.
"Our mission is to reclaim, restore and revitalize neighborhoods," he said.
But, he said, the DART has stringent criteria, including "a documented history of habitual criminal or code violations of at least two years."
Nino said the DART also looks at the impact a property is having on the health and safety of any individuals and the neighborhood.
Nino said the city attorney's office determines which specific properties to pursue.
Recently, the DART temporarily closed the Hayes Food Mart, which was known for attracting drug dealers and drive-by shootings.
The DART unit, which is coordinated by the city attorney's office, includes agencies such as Code Enforcement, Animal Care Services, the San Antonio Police Department, the San Antonio Fire Department, the Metropolitan Health District, the city's Department of Human Services and Haven for Hope.
State and federal agencies can also play a role as needed.
Earlier this month, with the required court warrant in hand, the DART arrived at a house in the 100 block of Covington Road.
Neighborhood concerns about the dogs in the house alerted ACS officers who reported the deplorable conditions inside the house to the DART unit.
Photo Courtesy: DART Unit
"It's certainly in no condition where you want anyone to live, human or animal," said Andy Segovia, city attorney.
After his evaluation, the SAPD mental health unit relocated the tenant, who had lived there at least two years.
About a half-dozen dogs were removed by ACS officers.
In the affidavit for the warrant to seize the dogs, ACS states the tenant admitted he kept the dogs enclosed "to prevent demons from getting to them." The affidavit also said that instead of dog food and water, he claimed to only feed them "sweet bread and corn."
Nino said the owner was aware of the situation. A notice to vacate has been given, Nino said.
He said the property more than likely will go before the Building Standards Board, which will decide in about a month whether to demolish the house.
"It's one of those we come across all the time, unfortunately," Nino said.