Community members in Gulfport are concerned about abandoned and unkempt homes in the city.
The issue hit a hot button for residents and caused a larger than normal turnout at last month's Gulfport Crime Awareness and Prevention meeting on January 10th.
That's why officials are following up on the issue on Monday, February 7 at 7 p.m. at the Gulfport Neighborhood Center.
Gulfport Police Chief Robert Vincent will be in attendance to help answer questions that people may have about abandoned properties, said Jeri Reed, co-coordinator of the Gulfport Crime Awareness and Prevention team.
The exact number of abandoned houses in Gulfport is unknown because the city doesn't keep a record, Reed said. Ernie Stone, a member of crime awareness, claims there are 240 abandoned homes in Gulfport.
“There are property owners who may not be absent homeowners, but aren't keeping up on the maintenance. Homes like these can be a haven for criminal activity,” Reed said.
Abandoned houses and properties can encourage crime and vagrancy in neighborhood communities, Reed said. Reed has been informed of vandalism issues that occur at abandoned homes as well as illegal dumping on the properties.
“The police dept. and code enforcement can't be everywhere at every minute. That's where crime awareness comes in,” Reed said.
Things like overgrown grass and broken windows are examples of code violations that can mean a home is possibly abandoned, Reed said.
“If you see a code violation, call it in. If you see someone hanging around an abandoned property, call it in,” Reed said.
The crime awareness team encourages people to be proactive and report things that may be a code violation, Reed said. Just because a house may look rundown though, does not necessarily mean that it is in violation of any codes.
Reed recommends calling Bruce Earling of code enforcement at (727) 893-1061 or e-mailing at firstname.lastname@example.org if anyone sees code violations with abandoned homes.
“The majority of people in Gulfport care about Gulfport and we want to try to prevent things,” Reed said.
The crime awareness team is about bringing people together so they can get to know their neighbors and what the norm is for their area, Reed said. This allows them to better know when something is wrong.
The crime awareness team also brings in speakers from time to time to help educate members about how they can better help out in Gulfport.
Reed encourages anyone who has any thoughts on the issue of abandoned homes or other concerns to attend the meeting.
“We want to know what your issues are, but we also want to know what your suggestion is for a solution,” Reed said.