It's a problem facing many eastern Iowa communities: nuisance properties, locations where police get called over and over again. The problem is those calls are taking way too much time and money from the Waterloo Police department's resources.
Waterloo Director of Safety Services Dan Trelka is hoping to crack down on these properties, charging fines to homes and businesses where problems keep happening.
Nita Hall's lived just off Kimball Avenue in Waterloo for more than 35 years. This year, she's been seeing more crime in the neighborhood, including a couple violent break-ins.
"It's all over Waterloo, certain areas over Waterloo, it isn't just ours," Hall said.
The Waterloo Police Department takes the trend a step further, noting that there are certain properties where they get called too often.
"It's calls like fights, disorderly conduct, underage drinking," said Waterloo Safety Services Director Dan Trelka.
When officers spend time going back to the same places over and over again, it costs the department and taxpayers $50 per officer per hour.
The other downfall--public safety is potentially put at risk, when officers are stuck responding to liquor violations and can't get to more pressing calls.
"It just gets to a point where we feel that's unfair to most of the taxpayers in our city. So when we end up going to these properties chronically or frequently, we're going to start charging back that property owner what it costs for us to go there," said Trelka.
Property owners could be slapped with that fine if there are more than three nuisance calls in less than a year. Homeowners and business managers making calls for police help would be forgiven. Going after nuisance properties is not about issuing tickets. It's about getting to the root of the problem.
"It's a tool for us to force a dialogue between the owners of these problem properties and the city. We're not counting on this being a huge money maker. We're hoping that before we get to the point we're charging a service fee or you're getting a citation, the problem will be abated," Trelka said.
Nita Hall thinks it's a great step to help restore peace to neighborhoods across town.
"I think if they know people are on the lookout and all of this, and they're more aware of what's going on around them, they're going to be a little careful," Hall said.
The nuisance ordinance is in its early stages right now. Trelka hopes the city council will review and pass it into law before the busy summer season, when crime usually rises.
Several other cities, including Davenport and Cedar Rapids, have similar nuisance property ordinances, which Trelka used to model the Waterloo ordinance.
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