Citizen Code Enforcement Volunteers Set To Help City Fight Blight

(Memphis) People tired of what they see and ready to reclaim their neighborhoods packed a room at the library.

“Back yard full of tires, rusted cars that cannot operate,” said Tanja Mitchell of Uptown Memphis.

Mitchell has been looking at old tires and junk near her Uptown home, wondering when it will get cleaned.

She and about 50 other people learned what they can do at  the Code Enforcement Volunteer Orientation Monday morning .

They will be the eyes and ears in the fight against neighborhood blight.

Memphis covers a 324 square mile size, and with only 33 code inspectors, the city needs help.

“Citizens want to be a part of the solution and this will allow them to do just that,” said Memphis Public Works Director Dwan Gilliom.

Volunteers will go through background checks, then, after classroom and field training, they will hit the streets with an eye out for  junk, weeds, and parking violations.

When neighbors see violations like old cars left in the front of houses, they can talk to the owners or, if they are not comfortable, turn it over to a code inspector.

Some neighbors still aren’t sold.

“I want to make sure everyone is treated fairly, not falsely accused or there is too much invasion of a person’s privacy,” said Donna Bohannon of the Sea Isle Neighborhood.

Robert Gurley of Westwood said he hopes this effort doesn’t die out like others in the past.

“It’s a need, but you gotta follow up with enforcement. If you don’t enforce, it’s gonna be like it was before,” said Gurley.

Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter was at the meeting Monday and says having another environmental court is going to help.

“We can hear double the cases we were able to before,” said Potter.

With citizen help, they hope to get more problems cleaned up.

Anti-blight volunteers will begin training in March and should be working in neighborhoods by April.