A program launched Wednesday aims to crack down on unsightly DeKalb County properties in hopes of sprucing up neighborhoods.
The initiative requires owners of vacant properties to register with the county and designate a local property agent or else pay fines up to $1,000 per violation.
Those fines are in addition to any other penalties assessed for improperly maintained properties that violate county codes.
Police officers, firefighters, elected county officials and residents announced the vacant property registry at a run-down house in south DeKalb, where they said squatters, drug users and criminals had found shelter.
“Left unmanaged, vacant properties do attract crime,” said Interim DeKalb Police Chief James Conroy. “We can stop it in the early stages and prevent it from getting worse.”
There are about 10,000 vacant properties in unincorporated DeKalb County.
“The neighbors have done all they can do, but without the law behind us, it didn’t help a lot,” said Joyce Henry, who lives in the Columbia Meadows neighborhood. “We really needed enforcement.”
The fee to participate in the registry is $100, but county officials said law-abiding property owners would save money by avoiding the $1,000 penalty and additional fines that come with non-compliance.
“This is a tool we can use to help stabilize neighborhoods,” said Marcus Kellum, administrator for the county’s Code Enforcement Division. “We can change the face of DeKalb County and improve the neighborhoods.”
The registry, part of the county’s vacant property ordinance, took effect June 1. Starting next month, the county will begin issuing citations, said Tonza Clark, the manager of the registry.