The city of Youngstown is going on the offensive to punish property owners who have shown a disregard for the appearance of the community and the health and safety of their neighbors.
The key word is offensive, because under a new policy, the housing and demolition inspector-enforcement officer will not only be able to level more serious charges against violators than what regular city inspectors are able to, but he has the authority to serve legal papers against city property owners who live outside Youngstown's boundaries.
That is important, because as study on lead poisoning of children in the city showed, many of the homes with lead paint are owned by individuals who live in the suburbs or out of the area.
The commitment by the McKelvey administration to crack down on violators of the city's housing laws comes at a time when public attention has been drawn to the decaying condition of parts of Youngstown.
Eyesores: A Vindicator series last month about the deterioration of many neighborhoods and commercial areas in the Mahoning Valley spotlighted major eyesores in the city. The series revealed a disturbing care-less attitude on the part of some property owners and a lack of aggressive enforcement of the laws by local governments.
As we said in a June 27 editorial, "Those residents of the Mahoning Valley who take care of their properties and even pitch in to keep their communities clean wonder how others can live their lives with such disregard for their neighbors."
But with the city of Youngstown's new two-pronged approach, fines will be increased and time behind bars will no longer be the exception for habitual scofflaws.
Indeed, city officials say that there are 150 regular offenders who have refused to clean up their properties or to tear down dilapidated structures -- even though they can afford to.
"We're starting to look at these people. We're going to go after them," says Bill D'Avignon, deputy director of planning.
Such a hard-hitting campaign to clean up Youngs town is overdue. Some parts of the city have become dumping grounds, while others are plagued by crumbling buildings and unkempt lots.
Police training: The city's housing department now has an inspector for each of the seven wards, plus it has John Bricker, who is the housing and demolition inspector-enforcement officer. Bricker has police training and received a special commission from the police chief. He will handle all the inspection department's cases, including issuing tickets and participating in the court proceedings.
Mayor George M. McKelvey believes the new structure will result in more pressure being put on chronic offenders. We certainly hope so.
However, city government can't do it alone. Every Youngstown resident has a responsibility to monitor what is going on in the neighborhoods and alert the inspectors to long-standing problems.