Harahan — Jefferson Parish is expanding the hours of its code enforcement office in an effort to crack down on lawbreakers who operate outside of normal business hours.
The change is being made at the urging of Parish Councilman Ricky Templet, who asked the parish to be more aggressive about addressing a wide variety of code violators in District 1. Templet said he regularly receives complaints from constituents about persistent code violations that happen after the department’s regular hours because some people understand exactly how to game the system.
“I just want us to be more proactive,” Templet said. “People know (when the office closes), and they wait until after hours.”
Tiffany Wilken, director of the Office of Inspection and Enforcement, said Templet is correct that some residents know that her office is only open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and they purposely commit violations later in the day. Wilken said it’s easy for her office to catch high grass and certain blighted buildings because those are static issues.
But problems such as illegally parked commercial vehicles, residential vehicles parked on lawns or illegal sign placement typically happen in the evening or at night. Residents often call the code office to complain, but no one is on duty to immediately follow up on those issues. When inspectors go out the next day, the violators are gone. The new hours will offer more flexibility to catch those problems earlier.
“We’re looking forward to having some evening hours,” Wilken said.
Right now, the department is considering adding about three hours of operation to its normal workday Tuesdays through Fridays, and adding an eight-hour workday on Saturdays. However, those times have not been finalized.
Wilken said because many of the inspectors have worked the same schedule for years, the new hours initially will be staffed on a volunteer basis. However, all new employees will be told of the different schedules when they are hired and informed that they will no longer be guaranteed an 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift.
The change is not completely new for the department as inspectors already work later on some Thursdays and use a flex time schedule, Wilken said. The department has also experimented with “code sweeps” in areas with persistent problems, where inspectors can flood a community and hand out dozens of citations in hours.
Templet told Wilken that the parish should consider using some of its water meter readers to document code violations. The city of Gretna, where Templet used to be a council member, has experimented with a similar program but eventually had to dial it back because of the workload. Templet noted that water meter readers flood the parish’s streets at certain times of the month, and that offers a great opportunity to find violations.
The Office of Inspection and Enforcement has about 20 employees dedicated to finding violations and quality of life issues. Those inspectors are evenly divided between east Jefferson Parish and the West Bank. The parish issues citations for problems including high grass, blighted buildings and abandoned or junk vehicles. Residents with complaints can call (504) 364-3540.
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