Local News

Community Polices Vacant Homes in Chapel Hill

Posted June 21, 1999 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Chapel Hillis known for tidy, high-priced homes but there are a few on the other end of the scale.

Vacant and dilapidated homes often attract crime, and neighbors regard them as eyesores.Policeand town officials have a list of the worst offenders and they are working with community members to clean up the problem.

Faye Rigsbee takes a lot of pride in the appearance of her home. Her yard stands in stark contrast to the vacant house on the other side of Crest Drive.

"Everybody was taking stuff and throwing it in the yard because nobody lived there," Rigsbee says. "It was getting to be bad."

A week ago, the front yard was as overgrown as the back yard. Now, officers with the Community Oriented Police program are working with neighbors and town inspectors to clean up the home, and a few others like it.

"We work very closely with the neighborhoods," says officer John Moore, "and make them more proud of their areas."

Police and residents are also concerned about the criminal element attracted to vacant homes. Town inspectors have another concern.

"It's a health problem for us, a safety hazard," says town inspector John Davis. "People go inside, crawl through the windows and break them out and somebody's liable to get cut."

So far, Chapel Hill has not had to impose criminal violations or civil penalties to force owners to clean up the trouble spots. The owner of one house plans to bulldoze it. Another house, on Crest Drive, will be cleaned out and renovated.

Rigsbee is thrilled. "It looked bad. It made everybody else's house look bad," she says. "I'm happy. I'm very happy."