HANNIBAL | Vacant structures are scattered throughout much of Hannibal. These unoccupied buildings, both residential and commercial, are more than a potential neighborhood eyesore, according to Hannibal Police Chief Lyndell Davis.
During a recent appearance before the Hannibal City Council, Davis said there is a significant correlation between these vacant properties and a “lot of the criminality that we have been seeing.”
Davis said vacant properties have a cancer-like impact on neighborhoods.
“They erode the quality of life in these neighborhoods and they become incubators of crime,” he said. “I am telling you I don't need 10 more officers, I need these issues (such as vacant buildings) to be addressed and it will reduce crime because those structures create a place for it to flourish.”
With the help of the Hannibal Board of Public Works, the Hannibal Police Department set out to develop a list of vacant properties within the community. The initial list, comprised of properties which have not had water service for the past two years, featured 1,134 sites.
Davis then sent out his department's community service officers to do a personal check of every one of those sites to determine which ones were still standing.
“We ended up narrowing it down to 467 properties where there were structures that we felt posed a problem,” he said, adding that 80% of those vacant properties were located in one area of town.
City Manager Lisa Peck told the council that Hannibal's vacant property problem is now being addressed by the police and fire departments, along with the city's building inspector.
“Everyone is working together, gathering information, sharing information and wrapping our heads around what the problem actually is so we can do something about it,” she said.
Davis added that members of the council have also given their support to the effort.
“It is going to take a focused effort,” he said.
Davis also anticipates that residents,particularly those in neighborhoods thick with abandoned properties, will also back the city's endeavor.
“If you start turning the tide you might start seeing some reinvestment in some of these neighborhoods once people really believe that the city is serious about this,” he said.
Davis cautioned the council to not look for immediate success.
“This is a marathon,” he said. “This didn't happen 10 or 20 years ago. For 30 or 40 years we have seen it happening. But now you are starting to see the city say we are starting to turn the tide.
“Give yourself a little breathing room and recognize you need to look at the little successes. In two or three years at the rate you're going, if you keep this focus and you keep building momentum, you can turn this thing around. But if we don't focus on it...”