Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Gulfport officials update crime watch on vacant homes

GULFPORT — Police Chief Robert Vincent looked around the room and asked, "Who has a vacant house in their neighborhood?"

Virtually every hand in the crowd went up Monday night at the monthly crime watch meeting at the Gulfport Neighborhood Center.

"There's no way for us to know how many or the circumstances of vacant houses," he said. "The people who live around them are the only people who know if a house is vacant.

"It's incumbent on you to let us know."

Vincent and City Manager Jim O'Reilly addressed residents' concerns about abandoned properties after the subject came up at the January crime watch meeting.

"It's a problem that concerns everybody. People who own these houses need to be responsible for things like mowing the lawn and fixing windows," said Ernie Stone, coordinator of the city's Crime Awareness & Prevention Team.

The city tries to crack down on properties that are in disrepair by slapping the owners with code violation citations.

There are 140 to 180 code enforcement cases open at any one time, O'Reilly said. That is the best guess O'Reilly had for how many properties are abandoned in the city of 7,500 housing units, 4,200 of which are single-family homes.

The number is in line with other cities and every section of the city has vacant houses.

"Just as crime is throughout the community, there are properties in legal limbo throughout the community," O'Reilly said.

"From Eighth Avenue to the Pasadena Yacht & County Club, there are foreclosed properties."

Most citations are for high grass and weeds, trash and debris or unlicensed vehicles, said Fred Metcalf, the city's community development director.

While code enforcement is the city's tool for getting properties cleaned up, some at the meeting questioned its efficiency. It takes about 75 days to go through the process, O'Reilly said.

He said the city has considered hiring a special magistrate to speed up the process.

Until then, it's up to the residents to police their own neighborhoods.

Vincent told residents they should make empty houses look as if someone lives there, something he and his own neighbors do for the vacant houses in his neighborhood.

"I roll the garbage cans of empty houses out to the street," Vincent said. He and his wife even park their cars in the driveways of empty houses to make it look as if someone lives there to discourage squatters and vandalism.

Gulfport officials update crime watch on vacant homes 02/08/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 8, 2011 3:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tuesday's Nothing More concert moved from the State Theatre to Jannus Live in St. Petersburg


    Nothing More was one of the highlights of April's 98 Rockfest, a thoroughly entertaining rock outfit with a larger-than-live stage presence.

    Nothing More performed at 98 Rockfest 2017 in Tampa.
  2. Buccaneers-Vikings Turning Point, Week 3: Overreaction vs. reality


    "None of us really know how this group of 53 guys is going to come together and how we're going to play this season."

    Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs torched a porous Bucs secondary Sunday with eight catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns. [Getty Images]
  3. Triad Retail Media names Sherry Smith as CEO


    ST. PETERSBURG — Triad Retail Media, a St. Petersburg-based digital ads company, said CEO Roger Berdusco is "leaving the company to pursue new opportunities" and a member of the executive team, Sherry Smith, is taking over.

    Roger Berdusco is stepping down as CEO at Triad Retail Media to pursue other opportunities. [Courtesy of Triad Retail Media]
  4. What to watch this week: Fall TV kicks off with 'Will & Grace,' 'Young Sheldon,' return of 'This Is Us'


    September temperatures are still creeping into the 90s, but fall officially started a few days ago. And with that designation comes the avalanche of new and returning TV shows. The Big Bang Theory fans get a double dose of Sheldon Cooper's nerdisms with the return of the titular series for an eleventh season and …

    Sean Hayes, Debra Messing and Megan Mullally in Will & Grace.
  5. Eight refueling jets from Arkansas, 250 people heading to new home at MacDill


    TAMPA — The number of KC-135 refueling jets at MacDill Air Force Base will grow from 18 to 24 with the return of a squadron that once called Tampa home.

    A KC-135 Stratotanker, a military aerial refueling jet, undergoes maintenance at MacDill Air Force Base. The planes, many flying since the late 1950s, are now being flown more than twice as much as scheduled because of ongoing foreign conflicts. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]