Booneville works to clean up city
The Booneville police are working to enforce the law requiring people to keep their properties clean.
Police Chief Benjamin Villareal said that holding people accountable for the state of their properties was one of his goals when he took the position in July.
“I wanted to clean the town up and leave it better than when I become chief," Villareal said.
It is an issue that has been escalating.
“It’s been a problem," Villareal said. "It’s just been getting worse and worse."
In 2018, the Booneville City Council amended the ordinance and allowed police officers to serve people with letters of warning. Prior to that, the officers could only enforce the ordinance if they received a complaint about the property.
Villareal said his officers have been diligently enforcing the ordinance since March when the weather became nice enough for people to begin cleaning up their properties.
Officers first serve people with letters of warning about their properties. The people then have 20 days to clean up the area. If they fail to properly clean their land, officers will write them a citation.
A judge can fine people a minimum of $75 and a maximum of $100 for the breach. A judge can also choose to fine people that amount for every day the person continues to be out of compliance with the law.
“So it could add up," Villareal said.
The police department has served 55 letters of warning this year.
Villareal said that often when people do not keep their properties clean it becomes a health issue.
The build-up of garbage can become a draw for rats or stray cats. When people leave out garbage that collects water, the area can become a breeding ground for mosquitos.
Mayor Jerry Wilkins also pointed out that those kinds of properties can drive down the value of surrounding properties.
Common issues that officials see are the build-up of rubbish and unkept yards.
“It’s just a bad image for the community," Wilkins said.
Villareal said it is important to enforce this ordinance to, “just make the town look better, make it look cleaner," and to help the city "be more eye appealing when people come to town when people come to visit."
Officer Traye Stokes said that the issue is one that he comes across nearly every shift.
“It’s just an extra step to clean the city up," Stokes said about his work to enforce the cleanup ordinance.
Officer Michael Keatts said it is an issue that he thinks is significant.
“Well anything we can do to clean up our town and make it a nicer place for them to live is something we take pretty serious," Keatts said.
He said that he appreciates the support of the police chief and city council in helping to address the problem.
The ordinance gives him a course of action to address issues.
“I think it’s an important aspect of city policing especially in a smaller community," Keatts said.
Keatts said he takes pride in Booneville and wants to be part of making it better.
“I mean we have a pretty awesome place that we live, but we can always do something to improve," Keatts said.