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Thread: Volunteer code enforcement surveys

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Volunteer code enforcement surveys

    Title should be: Volunteer code enforcement surveys

    Due to the economic situation and tight budgets, and limited staffing, has anyone found success using systematic volunteer reporting of code enforcement violations?

    I understand that we probably don't need to dig up more work for us to do, but I am concerned with the systematic approach to sureying the entire city for our consistent application of the most importand code regulations.

    Has your jurisdiction approached volunteer services to cover more areas with no survey expense?

    Did you have a priority system (did you look for only certain violations as a priority)?

    How did this work out?

    Did you find that you had consistency of area coverage?

    Were you able to prioritize what you wanted to emphasize first - in a uniform manner?

    Did this interfere with regular enforecement surveys?

    Did this cause more problems for your regular code enforcement officers, if you have any?

    Did you prioritiize code violation search?

    Did you search for just one type of violation uniformly throughout your jurisdiction?

    Did this increase workload unbareably?

    Would you recommend a volunteer code violation survey for other jurisdictions?

    Is there a posting of volunteerism results somewhere in the Cyburbia Forums?

    Is there a discussion and conclusion where this has already been thoroughly covered that you could recommend?

    Please feel free to address just one of the above questions if you want to.
    Last edited by Streck; 22 Jul 2012 at 9:52 AM. Reason: Edited thread title to add the word SURVEYS

  2. #2
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    well most people feel more than free to report anything they think may be a code violation in their neighborhood in the Mrs Kravitz kind of way or as a "way" to resolve disputes so I am not sure giving them real authority works - I cringed when I read the title of this thread

    it's up to the policy makers in the town to decide how important is code enforcement to them - if it's not that important, then the regulations should not require heavy enforcement and if they want heavy regulation then they have to pay for enforcement - the strategy for enforcement lies in the regulation the chief elected officials put in

  3. #3
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    One reason I would shy away from this is that the volunteers would want to see action taken for their efforts, quick action.
    ...and what luckless said.

  4. #4
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Well, if you want to get a once or twice yearly volunteer group together for municipality wide sweeps, I think it could be done, but you need to train these people specifically regarding the timeframes that civial law due process typically allows for land use/property maintenance.

    As mike said - they should not be under the impression that violations will be corrected immediately.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  5. #5
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman View post
    Well, if you want to get a once or twice yearly volunteer group together for municipality wide sweeps,...
    No, please, heavens no - I see pitchforks, torches - like the Disney scene in Beauty and the Beast when the village decides to go after the Beast -

    don't do this, please - it's creepy as heck

  6. #6
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    If you want services - including code enforcement - you have to pay for it. I guess you can take the capitalists' way out and privatize it.

    But untrained amateurs (if you spend the money to train them, you might as well just retain staff) running around performing police powers? Sounds like a clown show.
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    While volunteers are a great thing in theory, I would not even attempt it. The reason being is that in some code enforcement activities, there are some serious crimes connected to them, and in those instances (such as illegal chemicals for the making of meth, grow houses, even squatters that aren't "all there"), why you send volunteers, un-armed, into harm's way, especially if it is a follow up to a compliant that can be is as simple as "an illegal structure"?
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  8. #8
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    I think this could work, but only on the low risk enforcement items (ie easily visible from pubic right-of-way such as junk, grass, building maint, etc) and only for the first inspection. They should not be doing followup/higher risk items.

    Also, one could set it up like having a review board, etc. Have people "apply" and selectively choose ones that would not go off the rails. I know communities have COP groups, so why not similar for zoning/prop maint enforcement.

    Though, don't misunderstand me, I would not want to be their handler.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    I agree - this is not a good idea.

    My original idea was to have a volunteer make a systematic sweep of the city looking for one item in the code as designated by the Planning Director or Code Enforcement Officer - like front yard fence violations, etc.

    But you probably have enough people who complain about perceived violations anyway, which keep Code Enforcement people busy all the time.

    I cringed at my title also, but didn't know how to correct it or withdraw the thread.

    My apologies.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian jswanek's avatar
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    Your CE officer has a tough time getting a warrant to go past a fence to see what's really going on, and you're going to send volunteers with NO authority to peek over that fence?


  11. #11
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Streck View post
    I agree - this is not a good idea.

    My original idea was to have a volunteer make a systematic sweep of the city looking for one item in the code as designated by the Planning Director or Code Enforcement Officer - like front yard fence violations, etc.

    But you probably have enough people who complain about perceived violations anyway, which keep Code Enforcement people busy all the time.

    I cringed at my title also, but didn't know how to correct it or withdraw the thread.

    My apologies.
    Don't apoligize. We have all been in the same boat...or will be sooner or later.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    While volunteers are a great thing in theory, I would not even attempt it. Why you send volunteers, un-armed, into harm's way, especially if it is a follow up to a compliant that can be is as simple as "an illegal structure"?
    Sorta off topic, but I just heard of a 'fairly recent' fiasco that occurred with a Code Enforcement officer in Southern California.

    A Long Beach man suspected of shooting a code enforcement inspector before barricading himself in his house was taken into custody Thursday after a seven-hour standoff.
    http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jul...arder-20120706

    While this certainly doesn't happen very often, I think Raf makes a good point. Sending an overzealous volunteer to address code violations might be a nightmare.
    And that concludes staff’s presentation...

  13. #13
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    There was just an AP article a few weeks ago about volunteer code enforcement program. I want to say Oklahoma? A quick google search turns up quite a few articles.

    I have one zoning inspector for the third largest city in the state (by land area) and we have enough work to do as it is, but I still expect him to be proactive when he is out and about, and for people to call if there is an issue in their neighborhood. This isn't something I would consider, but I'm not really opposed to it, providing the volunteers are trained and their involvement very limited.

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