COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Columbia has been dealing with a rash of shootings on the north side of Columbia.
But in that area, another issue exists -- run-down housing. It's a problem police say often helps create a breeding ground for criminal activity. It's something police departments and cities have to constantly monitor. Because where they have abandoned, sometimes even dangerous housing structures, drugs, vandalism and other forms of crime can flourish.
Just for example in an area of North Columbia, just a block or two from the scene of a murder at an apartment complex over the weekend, we found a half dozen abandoned houses. This is close to the line between the city and Richland County, so some may be technically in the county.
But they remain there, creating potential hiding places for criminal activity and it can take years for city and county government to go through proceedings needed to prompt owners to bring them up to code or be demolished.
"We start by sending the property owner notice to give them the chance to either fix up the property or fix up the house," David Hatcher with the City of Columbia's code enforcement branch said, "Or demolish it on their own. If they don't then we do go through the legal process of demolition, which if everything goes well we can do it in as quick as seven months. That process can go on for two to three years depending on what the status is of the house, whether it's in foreclosure or if it's gone to a tax sale."
Hatcher said over the last few years, the city has managed to pursue that process successfully enough to demolish more than a hundred abandoned houses and other structures. But sometimes, the threat of demolition can actually slow the effort as owners then take steps to sell the property they've neglected for so long. Also hampering the process quite often are owners who live out of state.