City says new law limits options to clean up crime hotspot: WVEC, Norfolk VA, 7/31/07

By Lindsey Roberts

Police say new homes in a Norfolk [VA] neighborhood are havens for crime, but the city’s hands are tied because of a new law.

Three people brutally beaten over the weekend brought attention to East Ocean View. Some residents have been calling their leaders, demanding that the city condemn several rundown apartment buildings neighbors believe house trouble-makers.

City leaders say their hands are tied.

“We are strapped now because in order to acquire them we are asked to pay way above market value, so the slum lords have us at their mercy and they are exercising it,” said Councilman Randy Wright. “We don't have the eminent domain we had previously."

In February the General Assembly changed eminent domain regulations. The idea is to protect home owners who take care of their property from being forced to sell their homes because others in the area have blighted homes.

Dora Bell has lived in the area for nearly 40 years and has dealt with the growing crime problem.

Her home has been hit with bullets and broken into in just the last few years.

"I don't go out at night by myself, so that's kind of bad when you can't do that,” Bell said.

A once crime ridden trailer park near Bell off of E. Little Creek Road is getting a face lift and being turned into affordable housing. By late next year the $14 million project will bring in 120 new apartments.

The revitalization effort in a crime hotspot is exactly what residents are demanding.

Councilman Wright says the city is still trying to figure out how to continue progress with the new law but says he's still determined to see change in East Ocean View.

WVEC, Norfolk VA: http://www.wvec.com