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Neighborhood cleanup efforts receive accolades from national magazine

A citywide blitz to tackle quality-of-life problems has improved some neighborhoods and won national accolades, Mayor Byron W. Brown said Tuesday.

A record 19 Clean Sweeps were launched in neighborhoods throughout the city this year. Crews from various agencies swooped down on targeted streets to deal with numerous problems. Some efforts focused on areas where block club leaders have clamored for action.

"They want the crime gone. They want the blight gone. And they know [Clean Sweeps] represent that," Brown said at a City Hall news conference attended by about 20 representatives of several state, federal and county agencies that are program partners.

A 111-page report documents the following Clean Sweep efforts in the past year:

* 174 tons of debris was removed, a 40 percent increase from 2006.

* 35 drug houses were identified and shut down. Program Coordinator Nicole Drye said the Save Our Streets Task Force alerted landlords to illegal activities, triggering numerous evictions.

* Inspectors pinpointed more than 550 housing code violations and took steps to resolve them.

* Hundreds of homes were baited for rats, several decaying properties were red-flagged for demolition and nearly 200 smoke detectors were distributed to residents.

Crews also used Clean Sweeps to distribute information about employment opportunities, job training, drug rehabilitation programs and other human services.

The effort has earned Buffalo a national award. American City & County magazine honored the program as one of eight government initiatives throughout the country that have helped to improve communities. The award was recently presented at a National League of Cities event in New Orleans.

When Buffalo first started Clean Sweeps in 2002, some residents complained about the intrusive nature of blitzes that brought fire inspectors, U.S. marshals, animal control officers, social service workers and cleanup brigades into neighborhoods. But Brown said he's unaware of a single recent complaint. If anything, the mayor said, Clean Sweeps "empower" residents to get involved in improving communities.

At least two Clean Sweeps were conducted in each of the nine Common Council districts this year. Brown aims to conduct between 18 and 21 Clean Sweeps in 2008.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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