Sault Ste. Marie is taking a new approach to cracking down on derelict homes throughout the city.
It's teamed up with Sault Ste. Marie Fire Services and the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service, forming an Integrated Municipal Enforcement Team (IMET) that will target bylaw, fire code and criminal infractions on properties.
"Many of these calls for complaints are in the double digit, you know, 100 calls for service to a particular area," said Chief of Police Hugh Stevenson. "Not only generated by the police, but generated by the community."
The team recently executed its first operation at 383 1st Ave., according to police.
Numerous fire code and bylaw infractions were found at the location.
"The immediate issues are as strong as the criminal aspects," Chief Stevenson said. "In terms of, if a building catches fire and there's three or four or five intoxicated, sometimes unconscious in a flop house, then that building burns down, we lost five souls."
Stevenson says non-permanent residents of targeted properties will be offered helped, if they don't have a place to live after an IMET operation.
But in order to do that, one Sault Ste. Marie city councillor says more work is needed to help social services.
"Quite frankly, it would be irresponsible and immoral to start going after these properties without having a better safety net setup in the city," said Councillor Luke Dufour. "Our shelter system and our homelessness system in Sault Ste. Marie, God bless them, it's not enough, it's not adequate to handle the problem and we need to invest more there."
Dufour says he initially raised the idea of creating a team, similar to that of an IMET, to the Deputy Chief of Police, Robert MacLachlan.
He says he wanted to address what was causing properties to go into disrepair and help bring in more people to the city's downtown neighbourhoods.
"In order to really systemically turn that tide, we need to kind of get our hands dirty down in these neighbourhoods and starting cleaning it up," he said.
Stevenson and Dufour say their hope with the IMET, is that it will send a strong signal to neglectful landlords and homeowners, to clean up their properties or face the consequences.