MANATEE — With the increase in foreclosures, more and more neighborhoods are being plagued with abandoned homes.
These vacant buildings not only are problems because of their unsightly conditions, such as uncut lawns and broken windows, but some are becoming magnets for criminal activity.
To coordinate a plan to deal with the issues, the Manatee County Neighborhood Services Department is facilitating a meeting of county and municipal law enforcement, code enforcement and nuisance abatement officers on Oct. 15.
“We want to identify the different problems of all the agencies,” said Cheri Coryea, director of the Neighborhood Services Department, “then prioritize them and develop a plan to deal with them.”
Coryea said her staff began hearing from people in various neighborhoods about activities around vacant houses and property in their communities, such as young people hanging out and homeless people squatting.
“This started in the early part of the summer, before any of the tragic things happened,” she said, referring to the recent shooting deaths of two teenagers.
Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston said having a coordinated effort to solve the problems would be helpful to municipal and county agencies.
“An empty house can be a real problem to neighborhoods,” Poston said. “It will be good to bring unity across jurisdictions. We need to be on the same page.”
Coryea said many times residents call one of the police departments or the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office to complain about the grass being too high at an abandoned home.
“We need to have a plan on how to get the word out about what agency to call about the various issues,” she said. “We could free up the sheriff and police to work on the crime problems.”
Deputy Dawn Stroup of the Crime Prevention Section of the sheriff’s office said bringing all the agencies together will be helpful.
“Some may have used one solution the other may not have thought of,” Stroup said. “Such as there are some grants for communities people don’t know about — we need to get the word out.”
Coryea said they hope to have a plan for all the city and county officials to sign off on and get the information out to the community by Dec. 1.
“Once we have our plan, we’ll put together something like a frequently asked questions document,” she said, “and distribute it.”