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District 5 residents favor cleaner
Decatur Some want police to follow Athens' lead in crackdown on neighborhood eyesores

By Chris Paschenko 340-2442

Enamored of the city of Athens' push to rid itself of blight, one Decatur resident doesn't understand why her city's code-enforcement officers can't enter private property to investigate junk vehicles.

During Thursday's District 5 community meeting at Decatur Baptist Church, Katherine Powell told Police Chief Ken Collier and City Councilman Ray Metzger that Decatur could learn from Athens' success.

"Why can't they go on private property?" Powell said. "Athens doesn't seem to have any problem doing that. There are five vehicles at Fifth (Avenue) and Betty (Street) in the front and backyard. Can we change the bylaws or are they just going to rust down? What are you all going to do?"

Consulting with Athens

Collier said he planned to attend a Friday morning meeting with Athens Police Chief Wayne Harper and other chiefs from North Alabama.

"I'm going to talk with him about the details of what they're doing over there," Collier said. "But our Community Development Department is very responsive when asked to do what they can do."

Members of Decatur's Community Development have told The Daily they can enforce the city's junk-car ordinance if they can see the violation from public rights of way, but residents can avoid violations if they back cars to their homes to hide expired or missing license plates.

"It does make the city look terrible," Powell said.

Collier said police officers would receive training to recognize specific violations, making it easier to report incidents to code-enforcement officers.

Decatur Mayor Don Kyle told the 24 residents, who attended the meeting and met the police command staff, that Community Development issued more than 3,000 violations last year under the city's weed, junk and litter ordinance.

"I suspect (Athens) is doing what we've been doing all along," Kyle said. "But we need residents to keep reporting instances when we can't see tags on private property. We're looking at those issues."

Collier said some people feel that government ordinances go too far when restricting residents from parking cars on lawns.

"But most are for some type of restriction from parking on grass," Collier said. "We have to make allowances when creating laws of that regard or change them to protect the innocent."

Larry Schick asked Collier for help enforcing quality of life issues, like people riding four-wheelers and skateboards at all hours of the night.

"I know it's a low-priority item," Schick said. "And I realized if you don't catch them in the act there is not a whole lot you can do about it, but I'd like to see more regular police officers in my community. Peace in my neighborhood is a concern."

Officers from the Police Department's Anti-Crime Unit said they would saturate the area with patrols.

The fifth and final community meeting with Decatur's new police chief is April 10 at Central United Methodist Church at 6 p.m. Councilman David Bolding, the District 2 representative, plans to attend.

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