Fewer nuisance properties in Cedar Rapids after SAFE CR program

Published: Jun. 5, 2019 at 9:23 PM CDT
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There are fewer "nuisance properties" on record in Cedar Rapids. Police are actively trying to help those homes that are still struggling.

A nuisance property can be any area that has criminal activity, excessive trash or noise complaints.

Five years ago, the city started SAFE CR, or "Secure and Friendly Environments in Cedar Rapids.” The program, run through the police department, has seen success.

Since fall of 2013 Cedar Rapids has documented 769 nuisance homes. More than 85 percent of those, or 654 homes, are now compliant with city ordinances.

Homeowner Carol Sindelar takes a lot of pride in the Mound View Neighborhood. She’s planted flowers in her front lawn for more than 25 years.

But not every neighbor shows that same enthusiasm from time to time. Years ago, a city block in the same neighborhood had several houses with overgrown and cluttered lawns. Things changed once SAFE CR started.

"So if we receive a call that someone's neighbor maybe didn't mow their lawn then we can put that in our land management system,” SAFE CR Program Manger Amanda Grieder said.

SAFE CR program managers will work with the necessary city departments to deem if the complaint is an issue. If the property owners refuse to comply with the city ordinances the area becomes a nuisance property.

"The property owner has 15 days to submit nuisance property abatement plan. And if they do submit one then they have 30 days to address that nuisance without receiving any other bills or police calls for service,” Grieder said.

A large number of those nuisance properties quickly become compliant. In Sindelar's neighborhood, some take a step further.

I would really like to have neighbors walk over and say your grass is getting high let me help with that,” Sindelar said.

She knows issues will arise again like this house next door. Sindelar says what helps is she now knows who to contact.

"Letting them know the address and they can follow up and they can find who owns the property."

And that can be challenging to do if it’s a rental property or abandoned home.

If the owner of a "nuisance property" refuses to fix the issues he or she could be charged for excessive service calls. That is $94 an hour for each officer that responds.