Sault task force targeting derelict homes planning big as team gains steam
SAULT STE. MARIE -- After two months, all signs are pointing up for the Sault's Integrated Municipal Enforcement Team (IMET).
The IMET sees city bylaw officers, Sault fire, police and several other agencies target derelict homes that pose the potential for harbouring crime, eliminating both safety and criminal concerns all at once.
"Properties like this, it becomes a place where people will gather and criminal activity will happen," said Sgt. Rob Chabot of the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service. "We have to stop that for the health and safety of this neighbourhood."
Police gathered at 295 First Ave. on Wednesday morning to speak with media at the site of the third operation.
The home's windows are smashed, doors unfastened and it's littered with garbage outside.
Chabot said illegal drug paraphernalia was also discovered inside, while a piece of paper highlighting various fire code violations have been stapled to the boarded up front door.
"This is a message to landlords and property owners," he said. "Clean up your property or we will be coming for you once you're on our list."
Chabot said no permanent residents were at the home or the two other homes targeted by IMET.
When dealing with properties where that's not the case, he said social services will help find displaced residents temporary shelter. Chabot said IMET plans to find ways to turn properties into affordable housing.
"I know for this property right here, we're already engaged in some conversations about doing that," he said. "But there're other derelict properties around town that we are hoping to be able to turn into something useful, not just a vacant home."
City officials said they're also seeing a positive response to the team so far.
Freddie Pozzebon is Sault Ste. Marie's chief building official. He said those complaining about the homes have been thankful when the IMET is deployed.
However, Pozzebon said it's been mainly a reactionary response so far.
"We do hope to become more proactive in our approach as time goes on," said Pozzebon. "Where we're telling property owners, look, you need to actually clean up your yard before somebody calls in and complains about it."
Pozzebon said he hopes to have a plan in place early next year to do that.
IMET is also planning on incorporating other properties, such as bars, restaurants and businesses, into its criteria, but there's no timeline for that.