JACKSONVILLE, FL - Talk with any police officer or city official and they will tell you Jacksonville has one too many abandoned properties.
Even though they are vacant, their status leaves the front door open to crime.
"If you get up early in the morning you see people coming out of them," said Gordon Strickland.
Strickland lives in a West Jacksonville neighborhood that sits between Interstate 10, McDuff Avenue, and Beaver Street.
"People who shouldn't be in them," he said.
The house at 2952 Burke Street is abandoned. The windows are covered with sheets of plywood, but the front door swings wide open. Montana, who wants to remain anonymous was the previous owner.
"I sold it back to the real estate company," he said, " it needs the grass cut but the kids they play in it."
Over the weekend an 11-year-old shot a 12-year-old in the head. Family members say he found the gun in
the abandoned house at 2952 Burke Street.
Police are still investigating. But Councilman Garrett Dennis finds it troubling. Abandoned properties are the bane of complaints in his district.
"When I go to community meetings it is about abandoned homes," he said, "you have people plundering, leaving contrabands."
Dennis said he hears the same refrain from law enforcement.
"These are havens where they breed drug activity, prostitution," said Dennis,"where it breeds squatters."
He said the city has a list of 1400 properties countywide waiting for the wrecking ball. This year the city plans to demolish 175 of those properties before October but the process is slow, very slow.
"Only 83 have been demo this year this budget year," he said.
The question is why is it taking so long to get rid of these neighborhood eyesores?
"The issue with the demo that is taking us awhile," said Dennis, "we've looked at certain ways to speed that up but we're dealing with private property."
The family living in the house where the 12 year old was shot is moving out and they'll be gone long before the city can meet its goal, or does anything with the house at 2952 Burke Street,
"It is a tough process," said Dennis," it is something we really need to focus on."
The councilman said the city has set aside a budget of $2.4 million this year to get rid of the eyesores - so far it has spent $400 thousand.
"Sometimes tragedy pushes us to act a little quicker," he said.
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