City Labels Inspectors 'Crabs' and 'Sharks' Based on Number of Citations Issued
Updated: Thursday, October 10 2013, 11:04 AM EDT
A 71-year-old Baltimore resident on Tuesday lost his battle with the city housing department over unfinished repairs and was set to lose his home. At the root of his problems, an aging property he couldn't afford to fix.
The process began with a series of citations issued by a city building inspector who ordered Meigs to fix his porch. But the process dragged on for eight years until he owned nearly $8,000 in fees and fines.
"The Baltimore City housing department has executed a judgment and sold the house and now they are trying to evict me," Meigs told FOX45.
It's a complicated case. Meigs is a convicted sex offender who must report where he lives and currently has nowhere to go. But his eviction also represents the dilemma city officials face as they try to rid neighborhoods of blight.
Internal documents from the department of housing obtained by FOX45 reveal a new tool for monitoring the work of housing inspectors who issue the kind of citations which lie at the root of Meigs' troubles. The records show how the city doesn't just keep track of the number of inspections, abatements, and even citations issued by individual inspectors but uses strong language to interpret the results and evaluate housing inspectors.
For example, inspectors who write more citations and conduct more inspections are characterized as "sharks," and those who write less are labeled as "crabs," or bottom of the barrel.
The documents also reveal the department employs a unit called the "tac unit" or "tactical squad," whose job it is to issue numerous citations in neighborhoods overwhelmed with vacant homes or poorly maintained properties.
This language makes City Council Carl Stokes uncomfortable, even as he says he supports the department's efforts to tackle blight with more aggressive enforcement.
"I don't want a quota system," Stokes said. "I come down on the side of the neighborhood and good property owners. And knowing in most cases there is a process for people who are cited and it's ameliorated or they find a way to work it out."
In fact, Stokes says he would like to see more efforts to write citation writing in his district.
"Frankly there are areas in my district that we would hope more citations would be given," Stokes said.
As for Meigs, city housing officials are offering to find him new housing, and even help him move.