The federal porkulus bill contains $6 billion for something called the “Neighborhood Stabilization Program” to combat blight. The money is being dispensed to to state and local housing authorities and non-profit organizations across the country under the guise of community service and economic redevelopment to clean up and purchase foreclosed homes.
There has been little scrutiny of who’s getting the gobs of taxpayer money and how it’s being spent.
But I wouldn’t be surprised if what’s happening in Philly (which set up an NSP-type program several years ago) is being replicated across the country.
Nine city workers who were assigned to clean up blight in Northeast Philadelphia instead acted like a “band of brigands” by illegally entering homes and ransacking them of cash, jewelry, TVs and guns, District Attorney Lynne Abraham said yesterday.
The nine are current or former employees of the Department of Licenses and Inspections or the Mayor’s Office of Community Services who were assigned to the Community Life Improvement Program (CLIP), an anti-blight program supervised by the Managing Director’s Office.
From June 2006 to January 2008, the nine conspired “to invade people’s homes” to steal whatever they could, Abraham said at a news conference while announcing the results of a grand-jury investigation into the case.
CLIP was implemented in Northeast Philly in 2002 to deal with quality-of-life issues, such as a homeowner who didn’t mow his lawn, who left trash on his property or who didn’t fix a broken window. If an owner failed to fix a problem after having been given notice, a city crew was sent to fix it and the owner was billed.
The grand jury’s investigation centered on five homes from which items were allegedly raided. In each case, L&I inspectors failed to get a court order to enter the home, Abraham said.
Instead, L&I inspectors and CLIP crew members either broke into the homes or abused their position as city employees to throw residents out of their homes, while alleging that they were at the homes to check on property-code violations, Abraham said.
Once inside, the CLIP crew stole whatever it could, hauling out furniture and other valuables and dumping them into city trucks, she said. This was “a clean-and-seal operation, which very rapidly became a clean-and-steal operation,” Abraham said.