DeKalb County is being criticized for being a "bad neighbor" for its failure to clean up several run-down, overgrown and dirty properties. The county is supposed to fine people who violate codes but we found the county is not following those same rules.
"They are not taking care of their own properties," said Jon Barrere, an East Lake Terrace resident.
Barrere has been battling to clean up his neighborhood for six years.
"They are not good neighbors. In fact they are my worst neighbors," Barrere said.
The streets in East Lake Terrace are lined with abandoned homes. But CBS Atlanta found some of the worst properties are owned by none other than DeKalb County.
"All of them are in a state of disarray and disrepair. They are filthy, they are dirty, they are unsightly," Barrere told CBS Atlanta News.
Lot after lot owned by the county have gone months and even years without being cut. According to Barrere they're hideouts for criminals and prostitutes.
"They can easily hide in there. We were finding paraphernalia and condoms from the prostitution back there," Barrere said.
Dilapidated properties aren't just an eyesore, they are havens for crime. That's the exact reason there are codes to force property owners to cut their grass and pick up their trash.
County arrest records show the neighborhood is overrun by vagrants and drug dealers. Those same properties frequented by criminals are also often used as a cut-through by kids.
"The fact that it is so overgrown makes it hazardous to walk through here. You can get bitten by a snake, you may see rats. You may see a crack dealer or a crack user hiding out in the weeds," Barrere said.
So we took Barrere's Tough Questions to DeKalb County.
"Shouldn't DeKalb County be diligent in keeping up your property?" Reporter Wendy Saltzman asked.
"I don't disagree with that," said Chief Operating Officer Richard Stogner.
Stogner acknowledges that the county needs to be doing a better job.
"We have the responsibility, if we own the property, to take care of it," he said.
The issue is, in some cases the county hasn't been tracking all the properties it owns.
"If we've got a problem we need to resolve it and we will be diligent in terms of doing that," Stogner continued.
The county has started identifying their properties and they've started cleaning up their act. Crews have been out clearing these lots. Many of those properties have been acquired by the county through tax liens and foreclosures.
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved
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