The City of Boston’s new strategy of targeting so-called “problem properties” in our neighborhoods is finally taking real shape this week. A task force organized by Mayor Menino’s office will identify and pressure absentee landlords whose out-of-control tenants are the primary drivers of 911 calls. The intent is to compel otherwise ambivalent property owners to take a strong interest in policing their properties.
They’ll face fines and other penalties if they fail to act and will need to foot the bill for police to be stationed on their doorsteps.
The task force is aimed at one key facet of a complex public safety dilemma that has boiled over in the last week on our streets— with more than a dozen shootings over the long holiday weekend claiming four lives. And there has yet to be an arrest made in the outrageous shooting of a four year-old boy last Monday at Harambee Park.
There are clearly other levers that need to be pulled, including the strict enforcement of city ordinances dealing with “nuisance” calls, including motorbikes in city parks, public drinking, etc. This all puts an additional burden on our law enforcement officers, who are already stretched quite thin.
That’s why it’s important that other agencies be engaged in a coordinated campaign to itemize and control houses of ill repute.
In the 1990s, a “top ten most wanted drug den” program run out of Boston City Hall did this quite effectively by seizing properties for delinquent tax or utility bills and literally ridding neighborhoods of bad owners. It’s time for renewed commitment from all levels of government to send a unified message: If you don’t properly manage your properties, you’ll lose them.