Neighborhood complaints hit record in Phoenix

[Source: Michael Clancy, Arizona Republic] — Phoenix had a record number of complaints about weeds, junked cars, and other violations of city law in the past fiscal year.  Officials took in 57,989 complaints from residents about their neighbors, an increase of 6% from the previous year.  The city allows anonymous callers to lodge complaints.  The city responds with a letter to the subject of the complaint, then sends an inspector to visit.  Sam McAllen of the city’s Neighborhood Services Department said 85% of the complaints are resolved before the inspector makes a second visit.  The number of cases was a 49% jump from five years ago.

Jerome Miller, director of Neighborhood Services, said aging neighborhoods are harder to maintain, and that the poor economy may have turned people’s attention and money away from exterior maintenance to more important matters such as food and medicine.  Inspectors find that complaints come in from all over town.  No neighborhood is exempt from the storage buildings constructed without permits, the grass that has grown too high, the junker in the front yard or broken-down fencing.  But Miller said some of the older and poorer parts of town have bigger challenges than newer and wealthier neighborhoods.  “There are different needs in different neighborhoods,” Miller said, adding that many newer areas of the city are governed by homeowners associations, which are even stricter than the city’s rules.

And a tough economy does not help.  “When your choice is repainting your house or buying your medicine, the house might just have to wait.”  But generally, the calls follow efforts by the department to let people know about so-called code violations and what they can do about them.  “Current policy is that we work from a complaint-based system,” Miller said.  “We get the information into the system and take care of the cases.”  Residents need to take the lead when an entire area shows signs of deterioration.  When that happens, he said, the city can respond with various resources, including police.  [Note: To report blight in your neighborhood, call 602-262-7844, send an e-mail, or complete an online form.]

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