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October 1, 2014

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Agencies collaborate to bring improvements to rundown area

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Steve Marcus

Metro Police Officer Cesar Quesada talks with a resident during a County Multi-Agency Response Team (CMART) operation at a neighborhood near Twain Avenue and Decatur Boulevard Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. The woman told police that her unit had no electric power and she was using power from an upstairs unit with the resident’s permission.

County Multi-Agency Response Team Operation

Metro Police officers take part in a County Multi-Agency Response Team (CMART) operation at a neighborhood near Twain Avenue and Decatur Boulevard Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. Their efforts follow the Launch slideshow »

Area of emphasis

Watch KSNV reporter Marie Mortera’s story about this topic at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Channel 3.

If it weren’t for the diaper-clad toddler peeking through an upstairs window, the four-unit building would have seemed abandoned.

The downstairs apartments were haphazardly boarded, lighting fixtures were broken, debris littered the ground and outdoor fire extinguishers were missing.

“More than likely, squatters are living in it,” said Virginia Griffin, a community-oriented policing officer for Metro Police. "Places like this are very simple to get in.”

The building was one of 40 examined Wednesday morning by the County Multi-Agency Response Team, a collaborative effort to improve conditions in rundown neighborhoods.

This time the group focused its efforts on Ala Drive and Kolendo Court, two private streets off Twain Avenue in the western valley. The aging, two-story buildings lining the parallel streets are individually owned, a situation authorities say can lead to repair problems.

Wednesday’s CMART operation involved authorities from NV Energy, Southern Nevada Health District, Clark County Fire Department, Clark County Public Response Office and Metro.

The team dispersed shortly after 8 a.m. Wednesday to identify problems and building-code violations in the neighborhood. They estimated 20 percent of the housing units were unoccupied.

Authorities then contacted the building owners, notifying them of any problems or violations, Griffin said. If they fail to address problems after a month, they could face fines up to $1,000 per day.

In 32 buildings, code enforcers found violations, such as unauthorized outside storage, graffiti, unsecured units and inoperable vehicles in yards, county spokesman Dan Kulin said.

A similar CMART operation visited the same streets in 2010 and, in addition to building code violations, found unsafe living conditions, such as hypodermic needles on the ground.

“If you leave it to itself, it tends to deteriorate,” Metro officer Laura Meltzer said. “It’s kind of the ‘broken windows’ theory.”

The broken windows theory suggests vandalized or dilapidated neighborhoods could lead to spikes in crime.

Authorities hesitated to label Ala Drive and Kolendo Court as a neighborhood with rampant crime, but it’s certainly on law enforcement’s radar. When the group began planning the operation two months ago, a review of calls for service in the neighborhood illustrated a violence-prone area: domestic-violence incidents, stolen vehicles, reports of people with guns.

“This area at dark can get pretty violent,” Griffin said.

The end goal, authorities said, is to improve the quality of life for the residents regardless of whether they asked for the help.

Maybe by the time police visit the neighborhood again Oct. 27 for a community-building street fair, a few fixes will already be in place.

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