HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (KTHV) - The City of Hot Springs is targeting one of the oldest sections of the city for a targeted effort to improve the neighborhood.
The latest “Operation Clean Sweep” began Monday in a large area near Oaklawn and along busy Central Avenue known for fires, crime, and code violations.
“We pick an area that maybe has a high traffic of complaints and we'll pick that area and we'll do three to four of these a year,” said James Hardage, Hot Springs senior property inspector.
He and four colleagues pounded the pavement in the first phase of the program. He noted a pile of garbage bags and a mattress outside one home even though today isn’t trash day.
“This will probably just stay here until Monday when they will come by and pick it up,” Hardage said.
That will be when the city offers a free “CAPS” pick-up of heavy trash. Hot Springs offers residents two free chances to call a special truck to come collect large trash items like appliances or bedding. After that it costs money. This neighborhood will get an extra third pick-up next week.
The target area covers several acres. Inspectors are looking for overgrown grass, trash and building code violations.
It's a three-step program beginning with inspectors like Hardage going door-to-door, passing out information. Then comes that free “CAPS” pick up.
“We'll come back in two weeks and if it's not corrected then we'll send them a letter through the mail,” Hardage said. “If it's not corrected then we have the option of issuing a citation to appear in district court.”
The working class neighborhood has large pockets of pride with landlords and homeowners who take good care of their property. The city is hoping that this velvet glove approach can put the pressure on others.
“Some backyards and stuff have the old cars and stuff that are kind of junky,” said Danny Elser, who greeted the inspectors along with his mother Ebby. The family owns three houses side-by-side on one of the better-kept streets in the target area. “We haven’t had many concerns with crime here. Some of the other streets around here, though. It’s different.”
“Hopefully it would make a good improvement,” said Aquina Kline, who lived next-door to the Elser’s.”We've had a lot of problems with break-ins in our cars. and people trying to break into houses.”
Cities often cite crime reduction as reasons for neighborhood clean-up efforts. Hartage thinks it can be a good first step, but is happy with simple progress.
“When the grass has been cut or the refrigerator on the porch has been removed,” he said. “Whatever the case is. when the citizen does the things they were asked to do that's the best part.”