Taking Back the Neighborhood 

Volunteers take part in a pilot clean-up project.

Colonial Acres resident David Maxey said he sees a lot of junk cars parked in yards in his neighborhood but he had no idea neighbors were violating city and county codes until he got involved with the city's first Community Improvement Project.

By now, every Colonial Acres resident should know the top 10 code violations thanks to volunteers who spent Saturday morning handing out brochures listing the most common complaints, which includes junk vehicles, storing household appliances outside a house, and using indoor furniture outdoors.

"Once people know the violations, we're hoping they'll get into compliance," said Maxey. "If you've got a refrigerator on the porch, it doesn't belong there."

Residents will have three weeks to get their property into compliance. At that time, the volunteers will scan the neighborhood again, and addresses of homes that are still in violation will be turned in to the district attorney. Letters will be mailed to residents warning them that if their properties aren't cleaned up in two weeks, they will receive citations.

The Colonial Acres neighborhood in East Memphis received a lot of attention last year when Robert "Prince Mongo" Hodges battled code-enforcement officials in Environmental Court over his yard filled with mannequin heads and plastic lawn furniture at the corner of Colonial and Park. But residents who gathered in the Colonial Baptist Church parking lot on Saturday said Hodges wasn't the sole motivation for this project.

"That situation was just the tip of the iceberg," said resident Byron Tredway. "It gets much worse than that -- crack houses, meth labs. You don't know what's going on until you get out and start turning rocks over."

The event on Saturday was phase one of a pilot program devised by the Mayor's Citizen Service Center, the district attorney's office, city and county code-enforcement offices, and the Police and Citizen's Alliance (PACA). According to Jennifer Donnals, communications director for the district attorney's office, if this program is successful it will spread to other parts of the city.

"We're going to target this area and work out the kinks," said Donnals. "If people can fix problems on their own, that will help alleviate the work load that code enforcement has now."

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