Code enforcement officers sweep the streets of East Orange, knocking on doors as a warning. The new administration is fed up with littered properties and illegal dumping throughout the city.
When asked if it may be nerve wracking for residents to see a big group of people coming up their stairs, Eladio Negron, a code inspector for East Orange, said, “It may be, but this may be a chance to know how serious the city is about getting these properties cleaned.”
What they’re doing is a new initiative dubbed “Mayor on The Block,” an idea of Mayor Ted Green. Just 31 days in office, he’s making surprise door-to-door visits every month to clean up the city and aggressively crack down on crime.
“We want folks to see their block clean. We want the streets clean. We want those vacant properties that we own clean because not only it draws other folks to want to invest in our city and want to be in our city, so that is very important to me,” said Green.
As the mayor and code inspector walk the neighborhood they notice bags of garbage in front yards and issue warning notices to some.
“They’re trying to help in a sense because we actually are having a rodent infestation here and there, so it’s good that they’re telling us what we need to do,” said East Orange resident Jeffrey Duvinston.
Most of the program focuses on quality of life issues and most of the interactions go smoothly. Others get a bit more aggressive — in at least one instance using a sledge hammer to knock down the door.
East Orange Public Safety Director Sheilah Coley pointed out the major problems in the city.
“There are abandoned properties, so of course with that there comes some crime issues because of the whole broken windows theory. So we’re looking to address a lot of those homes that need to be torn down,” she said.
Coley says there’s a direct correlation between residents respecting their properties and lower crime. In 2017, there were nearly 2,500 total crimes committed, which is a 6 percent uptick according to New Jersey State Police data.
Now, first time offenders will be given a courtesy warning and a time frame to address their violation, but anyone after that failing to maintain their property could face a fine up to $2,000.
“Sometimes people may know that these things are on the books, but sometimes we just don’t do them because we feel that nobody is watching, nobody is going to say anything about it, but we just want to remind folks that in East Orange we all become leaders in keeping these streets clean,” said Green.