By Camaron Abundes
HOBBS, NM- City Crews hope to stomp out gangs, drugs and prostitution one condemned home at a time. City Commissioners have already condemned 25 homes in the last few months and they hope it will give drug dealers nowhere else to go but out of town.
"We're looking at doors, if they're not secured, broken windows," Manny Marquez, a building official with the City of Hobbs says dilapidated homes with collapsing roofs and serious structural problems are exactly what his team wants to find
Officials say abandoned homes often attract vagrants, teenagers, and other squatters. Many who use drugs and engage in other illegal activity.
"There have been a few times I'm walking in the front door, and I hear somebody running out the back door, where they're doing drugs," Arthur Delacruz, Assistant Superintendent for Code Enforcement.
Delacruz says the vagrants live without electricity and without adequate plumbing, he says he must wear a mask during some inspections. In one home, Delacruz told Newswest 9 a team found buckets used to hold excrement, because the home did not have a working toilet.
"It will cut down on pregnancy with the teens," Delacruz said about the city's plan to rid South Hobbs of dilapidated homes.
"It goes hand and hand with the drug problem and the general crime problem," Hobbs City Manager Eric Honeyfield, said. He also said property crimes also go up when a home is abandoned in a neighborhood,"The more you allow broken windows, the more you're going to have a crime infestation."
Honeyfield says City Commissioners have set a goal to condemn five additional homes per Commissioners meeting.
"This is a fundamental thing that's not very sexy, but we've got to have addressed," Honeyfield said, "We're doing a very focused concerted effort around south Hobbs, trying to raise the housing standards, through some code enforcement and some very aggressive condemnations."
Monday night, the city also passed a resolution to allocate $50,000 dollars each year to spend on supplies to help volunteer organizations cleanup the rundown homes still lived in inside city limits. The resolution will also waive city liens, and offer demolition and renovation credits to homeowners.
"This is a multi-pronged approach to really raise the standard of living here," Honeyfield said.
City crews say the condemnation process is a long one. Property owners are sent notices and given time to appeal in some case the city is buying the property outright in order to donate the land to nonprofit.
"Then we will turn around and clear the title, get the property clean and donate it to an organization like Habitat for Humanity," Honeyfield said.