GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The city of Gulfport has started a special environmental court with the hopes of speeding up the process of forcing property owners to clean up.
"Right now we're working about 562 cases," said Code Enforcement Chief Rick Ryan.
Ryan works in the city's code office where he identifies derelict properties. He patrols the city looking for everything from inoperable vehicles to abandoned homes damaged my Katrina.
"My responsibility is to go out and take the actions necessary to get resolution to issues."
It starts with red stickers placed on neglected structures notifying property owners that they need to act responsibly to clean up their property. If that doesn't work, the city then contacts the owner and tells them they have a specific period of time to act or they will receive a summons to appear in the new environmental court.
Gulfport is encouraging citizens to help target derelict property by calling the city to telling them about the eyesores.
"These dilapidated properties drive down values and hurt the over all quality of life," Ryan said.
Because of property rights and protection under the law, property owners have every opportunity to fix the problem before the city steps in. In the past, it would take an average of three months for these cases to work through the legal system.
"We hope to get that down to a matter of weeks," Ryan said.