Following the discovery of 6-year-old Ahlittia North’s body outside a vacant and derelict apartment building in the Woodmere subdivision, Jefferson Parish Councilman Mark Spears is calling for the immediate demolition of that complex and similarly blighted properties in the surrounding area.
Spears’ demand for action comes months after the councilman first began inquiring about code enforcement in the area, setting the stage for the elimination of the vacant four-plexes. But with the immediacy of Ahlittia’s killing — and the difficulty deputies had searching the vacant properties in the area — Spears introduced a resolution that would put six properties on the fast-track for condemnation and demolition proceedings.
The Parish Council is slated to take up the resolution at its Wednesday meeting in Grand Isle.
“We get a lot of complaints from people in the community complaining about the apartments in Woodmere, how they’re derelict, an attraction for vagrants, and just attracts the wrong crowds,” Spears said.
In addition to 2836 Destrehan Avenue, where Ahlittia’s body was discovered, the resolution also calls for the demolition of 2636 Destrehan Ave., 2904 Destrehan Ave. and 3713 Long Leaf Lane. All those properties have been blighted and boarded for years, Spears said.
Two other properties, 3717 Long Leaf Lane and 2704 Destrehan Ave., do not yet have enough of a paper trail in the parish’s Code Enforcement databases to justify an immediate tear down. Those properties could be monitored for six months and, if they remain boarded and vacant, condemnation proceedings could start at that time, Spears said.
The other properties have been cited by Code Enforcement for a variety of offenses in recent years, and Spears said he was concerned that the process of removing the buildings has taken so long.
Should demolition proceedings begin, the property’s owner would be assessed the cost of the work.
Ahlittia disappeared from her family’s apartment in the 2900 block of Destrehan Avenue earlier this month and her body was discovered in a trash can outside of one of the blighted properties last week. She had been stabbed to death.
Matthew Flugence, Ahlittia’s stepfather’s nephew, was arrested and booked with first-degree murder last week.
North was buried Monday following a funeral in Gonzales.
While the status of the buildings does not appear to be a factor in that case, Spears said the complexes create a serious public safety problem for the area and are used by squatters. He also suggested the vacant status of the properties could make them good locations for hiding drugs and weapons.
Two other homicides and dozens of other crimes such as burglaries, batteries and drug offenses have occurred in nearby blocks in recent months, something that Spears said may be due in part to the blighted properties.
“We get calls and stuff all the time about it,” Spears said. “It’s disheartening for the citizens in Woodmere. They pay taxes just like everybody else and they want a clean, safe neighborhood. We want to make sure they have a good quality of life.”