Houma councilman targets slums, crime

Terrebonne Parish is looking at strengthening its enforcement on slums and lands that foster crime.

The Terrebonne Parish Council Policy, Procedure and Legal Committee discussed

strengthening its nuisance abatement code during its meeting last Monday. Among the

proposed additions would be new provisions that define slums and blight and establish penalties for said violations.

District 1 Councilman John Navy headed the discussion at the meeting.

He said that he has spoken with Terrebonne District Attorney Joseph Waitz about the provisions, and if Waitz approves of their legality, he will put the provisions up to a public hearing and make a motion on adding them to the parish code of ordinances.

The councilman said he would like to incorporate language that targets houses that are conducive to things like crime, juvenile delinquency and infant mortality. Navy said he wants to hold landowners accountable for carelessly letting tenants harm their communities.

“Landowners continue to allow some of these things to happen in these communities and not vet these people that they’re putting in these places. My initial goal is to cure some of that, and if the landowner or homeowner continues to have rental property and desires to continue to allow to crime to happen, knowing that they have people that are doing things that are not legal, then we should fine or penalize them,” Navy said.

Chris Pulaski, zoning administrator for Terrebonne Parish, attended the committee meeting and said the provisions would “add teeth” to the parish’s nuisance abatement program, something Navy said he noticed the parish needed several months ago.

“There were problems on the enforcement side because it was mostly dealing with structures and buildings and not things that are going on in the community. So, I wanted to try to go around it and see what other avenues I could take, so I started looking at other areas at what they had as far as nuisance abatement and slums,” Navy said.

Navy said that he would like to adopt language found in Jefferson Parish’s code of ordinances, which includes an article directly addressing slums and blighted areas. It describes a slum as any area with dilapidation, overcrowding or other issues that make it “conducive to ill health, transmission of disease, infant mortality, juvenile delinquency and crime, injuriously affect the entire area, and are detrimental to the public health, safety, morals or welfare.”

The councilman said that he has received calls from residents regarding slums that are hotbeds for crime and delinquency. According to him, he is looking at different ways to ensure the safety of residents in underserved communities.

“I’m going to do everything I can. But this is private property and you have landowners that are allowing these things to happen in these communities where these people are limited, with limited resources, and they’re frightened and don’t know where to go,” Navy said. “So, we’re looking at several avenues, even looking at a process to try to help relocate people that qualify for certain programs into safe, affordable housing.

Because the people that live in these dangerous areas are terrified themselves.” •