An open letter to property code violators in Topeka

#topekatweeetalong sat in on the Dec. 16 code docket and learned just how serious we're taking these cases now

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  1. I could go on about the seriousness of property code violations in Topeka's newly formed Code Docket, but I think I'll let Municipal Court Judge Lloyd Swartz take it from here:
  2. "I'd rather not put you all in jail, but ... I have to tell you the sad news is I could put you in jail for the next year. Are you going to do something about this?" -- Two citations for 1405 S.E. 10th with apparent fire damage, nothing done since October.
  3. "I'm going to appoint you an attorney for you, because I think this is looking at a possible jail sentence, because quite bluntly sir, I don't understand waiting five or six months for some contractor to get around to it." -- House at 1608 S.E. 23rd that needs the garage fixed. Was notified of violation in July, says contractor can't get to it until after the first of the new year.
  4. Get the message? If you don't fix your property code violations, we aren't just slapping you with a fine and sending you on your way anymore.
  5. Now, compliance is the goal, and Judge Swartz isn't afraid to send people to jail. He's done it once already.
  6. To hear it from code inspectors, the code docket is the best thing to hit Topeka since sliced bread.
  7. The prosecution office ran the numbers: The office has filed more property maintenance code cases in the past two MONTHS than in the past four or five YEARS combined.
  8. The docket is specifically for violations the City can't fix, so we're talking replacing sidewalks and painting exteriors, not mowing the grass. With about a month under its belt, the code docket averages about 25 cases a week, and several of them are dismissed because the parties correct the problem before their hearing.
  9. Here's an interactive map of the cases that have come to the code docket since Dec. 2 -- it shows address and status of case. Judge Swartz ask that I leave off names, to afford them some privacy.
  10. And that's not even the tip of the iceberg of what property maintenance code inspectors do. So far this year, they've inspected 31,000 cases -- that's more than 100 cases each week day. And people say code inspectors don't do anything:
  11. Many people point to Chief of Prosecution Chuck Kitt, who came on Oct. 5, and Judge Swartz for starting the code docket.
  12. The Code Docket is every Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. in the council chambers/main courtroom. Hope we don't need to see you there.
  13. -- Love, the City of Topeka.
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