By Wyatt Goolsby
HOBBS, NM - Break-ins, drugs, alcohol and arson. Authorities in Hobbs, NM say they're gearing up to tackle crime right from the source: abandoned and vacant houses.
It's not pretty or something to be proud of. In fact, it's a nest for break-ins and drug trafficking. If you drive around the city of Hobbs, you will see lots of abandoned, run-down buildings. Keeping the town clean is a battle Hobbs officials say they've been fighting for years.
"What we are looking at is identifying ruined and dilapidated structures," Fire Marshal Eric Enriquez, explained. "The safety concern is unauthorized entry, such as juveniles, even adults, illegally drug trafficking."
Fire Marshal Enriquez and Environmental Assistant Superintendent Arthur DeLaCruz said their jobs aren't getting any easier. They've condemned 32 buildings in Hobbs just this year. In fact they have lists and lists of condemned buildings, and those lists just never seem to get smaller.
Try three fires in two months. Two examples include buildings on South Heizer and South Dalmont. The home on Dalmont was apparently vacant for at least several years, and then suspiciously caught fire in June a few days after it was condemned. Investigators are looking into whether squatters sparked the fired by cooking bar-b-que inside the home. However, officials said there were a lot of warning signs something could have gone wrong.
Officials said the numerous vacant buildings is a problem that wasn't started overnight and won't be fixed overnight. In July, officials will begin to condemn at least ten buildings each month. For property owners, the message is clear: Clean up your homes and help clean up crime.