Yakima installs fences in hopes of cleaning up troubled properties

YAKIMA, Wash. -- A change is coming to abandoned, neglected homes in Yakima. The city has a new tactic to keep out trespassers and stop the mess that brings down neighborhoods.

A property along the 600 block of South 9th Street once looked littered from trash dumped illegally, a tent from a squatter and an RV parked where it didn't belong. Now, there's a fence put up by code enforcement officers to keep out trouble.

Neighbors say they've seen a change.

"Nobody's been dumping garbage back there and it's nice," said Billy. "I like it."

Billy and his wife live next door. They didn't want to show their faces on camera because they're scared for their safety. The mess was causing problems for them at home.

"I got cockroaches, I got mice, I'm sure the neighbors do too," said Dinna. "I never had any before but I'm telling you they're hard to get rid of once you get them."

Code enforcement officers took this latest and most drastic step after repeated attempts to clean it up failed. Citations didn't work. This is the latest strategy by code enforcement to stop abuse at abandoned homes.

"If this fence was not here and we cleaned this up, I can guarantee in one week this property would be loaded up," said Yakima City Codes Manager Joe Caruso.

The couple's home is the first fence installed by the city. Code enforcement plans to revisit a few more troubled properties and will take the same action if there's no progress.

For now, Billy says the fence next door is working.

"We don't have problems here," said Billy. "Nice quiet street now."

It's a welcome change for Billy.

Technically, the fence is only temporary. But the city expects it to be here for years until the property gets the attention it needs.

Yakima plans to target five houses along South 20th Street next. Homes there are on tap to be demolished in a couple of weeks. They will then be surrounded by a fence.