Cape Girardeau experiences fewer nuisance calls

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The city of Cape Girardeau has seen "a dramatic decrease" in calls for nuisance abatement, police chief Wes Blair said.

Through the first nine months of this year, the city's nuisance-abatement officers have handled 6,200 calls, compared to more than 6,800 calls during the same time period in 2016, according to Blair.

Much of the difference is reflected in the fact there were several hundred fewer complaints about weeds this year, according to a bar chart provided by the police chief. Complaints about trash also declined, the chart shows.

The chief attributed the decrease to minimum-property-standards regulations enacted by the city council in the last several years.

People are "starting to take care of their properties," he told the council this week.

Blair said "the message has gotten out there" people need to maintain their properties.

The police department's nuisance-abatement unit has four full-time officers and one part-time officer to deal with a range of nuisances, from weeds to abandoned vehicles and trash to animals.

The unit now is short-handed. One officer is serving in the National Guard overseas, Blair said.

"Animals are still our top issue," the police chief said.

According to police records, the abatement officers handled more than 2,500 nuisance calls about animals in the nine-month period in 2016 and a similar number this year.

Vehicle and parking issues accounted for about 1,500 during the same periods, police records show.

Blair said abatement officers seek to have property owners "remedy the situation" without having to cite them for nuisance violations.

If such violations are not corrected, officers will write tickets, he said.

Some residents complained recently the city has been slow to address nuisance issues.

Blair said some nuisances go unreported for a time.

"People are quick to call police if an emergency is going on," he said.

Most people don't immediately call the city about a nuisance, he added.

Nuisance-abatement supervisor Ty Metzger said at a public meeting earlier this year the legal process in dealing with nuisances can take weeks to address.

"It's not that easy. Every man's home is his castle, regardless of what it looks like," he said.

A junk car in a backyard may escape detection, he said.

"We have to be able to see the violation, or it has to be reported," he said.

When it comes to nuisance violations, Metzger said the city puts the responsibility on property owners to ensure their properties are being properly maintained.

Some owners fail to maintain their properties and have to be ticketed.

"Sometimes people just don't care," Metzger said.

Even with a busy workload, abatement officers "try to follow up on every single complaint," he said.

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