Battling blight is an important part of fighting crime in Schuylkill County. Blight attracts crime and untended property becomes fair game for people out for fun or plunder.
Just a few examples of blight are:
1. Accumulation of trash inside or outside of a property
2. Not storing trash or recyclables properly
3. Littering on public or private property
4. Storing vehicles illegally
5. Failing to cut grass, weeds, or allowing water to cause a problem
6. Failing to report or abate an insect or vermin problem
7. Not cleaning sidewalks or throwing snow or ice on a public street
8. Improperly maintaining a pool
9. Not registering tenants -living in a residence without being registered or allowing unregistered persons to live in your residence
10. Failing to comply with regulations in the historic district
Governing bodies need to recognize that blight is a crime! A nuisance property ordinance must be passed to be eligible to issue quality of life tickets. The PA Crimes Code has proclaimed that some examples of blight are included in the code and penalties have already been promulgated for them. For example, scattering rubbish is section 6501 of title 18 and outlines the types of refuse that are not permitted to be deposited upon any road, street, highway, etc. The first offense is a summary offense punishable by a fine not less than $50 nor more than $300 - and imprisonment not more than 30 days. A second offense is a Misdemeanor of the 3rd degree for which the penalty increases and an individual will have a record if convicted. Another example is the crime titled "public nuisance," which can encompass many examples of blight and the penalty is a Misdemeanor of the 2nd degree, which carries substantial jail time. This takes place by police officers filing a criminal complaint against the property owner and the District Attorney's Office following through with prosecution.
Some misnomers to be aware of:
False - the record owner is still responsible for the condition of the property.
False - ordinances can be instituted and should be instituted wherein all members of the LLCs are required to list names, addresses and phone numbers
Schuylkill County is beginning to coordinate a county anti-blight action team, which will include all Schuylkill County Mayors, police chiefs, township supervisors, borough and city council members, borough, city and township managers, all code enforcement officers and legislators, county commissioners and staff, and last but not least, representatives of Main Street Efforts and SEDCO. The team is proposing to meet quarterly and bring structure to past efforts. Additionally, a top 12 eyesore list, known as the "dirty dozen," will be developed and voted upon by those in attendance; the list will be updated at each meeting. Further efforts will include developing benchmarks to monitor progress in each municipality and seeking additional funding for demolition and rehab projects.
The District Attorney's office is offering a training seminar to assist code enforcement officers in prosecuting blight issues. The seminar will be free and will be held on February 25, 2015 from 10am-1pm in Courtroom #7 located in the Schuylkill County Courthouse. To register or to receive additional information, please contact Brad Gotshall at (570) 628-1354.