Strong neighborhoods hold our City together. Problem properties ' houses in disrepair and scofflaws ' weaken it.
Most of our citizens follow the law, follow the building codes, rent to responsible tenants, and take good care of their properties. They are good neighbors, and rightly expect everyone else to be the same.
Unfortunately, some people are not. A run down property, a spate of nuisance crimes, and a drug houses can bring down an entire block. They hurt our quality of life and reduce property values.
To address the issues bad neighbors cause, we formed a Problem Properties Task Force ten years ago in the City's law department. Their mandate is to convince owners of problem properties to fix them up voluntarily. If they don't, the Task Force takes them to court. In extreme cases, they take them to jail. Today, The Problem Properties Unit of the law department has grown to 7 lawyers, supported by dedicated St. Louis police officers and investigators.Together, they have brought nearly 9,000 properties into compliance with the housing code.
We also created a special Problem Properties Court to focus on priority problem properties and on illegal dumping and littering.
The Task Force and the Special Court have improved the quality of life in our neighborhoods and have played a key role in moving St. Louis forward.
Today, I announced an expansion of our effort. A new partnership is recruiting and training dozens of lawyers in private practice who are willing to represent the City and their own neighborhoods against the owners of problem properties. Instead of just 7 lawyers, we may have 7 times 7 lawyers.
I want to thank all of the lawyers who worked on this, especially City Counselor Patti Hageman, Public Safety Director Eddie Roth, Tom Minogue of Thompson Coburn, and Heather Hays of The Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis.