When the Masten District resident received a ticket for high grass at the home of his late mother this summer, he paid the $150 fine without hesitation. His sister was dealing with their mother's estate, and there was a mix-up involving grass-cutting chores.
The man was Mayor Byron W. Brown. He is among thousands of residents who have received citations this year as part of the Police Department's crackdown on quality-of-life offenses.
"I can sympathize with what citizens are going through," Brown said Wednesday, when he disclosed the citation during a meeting of the CitiStat accountability panel.
Still, the mayor and some of his advisers encouraged police to continue their offensive against high grass, loud noise, litter and other problems that plague many neighborhoods.
While some Common Council members think more violators should be given warning notices before being slapped with fines, Brown administration officials made it clear they continue to support the aggressive crackdown.
"It's being strictly enforced because that's what the public has demanded," Brown said.
"You're doing the right thing. Keep it up," First Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey told police officials.
Violent crime and most of other types of crime have decreased in areas where police officers have focused on quality-of-life problems, said Deputy Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda.
"We're getting a lot of praise from block clubs and people in the neighborhood," he said.
Officers have written 11,501 summonses for quality-of-life offenses since Jan. 1. Derenda said if every fine is collected, it would generate $1.2 million for the city.
In some instances, Derenda said, violators don't learn their lessons even after being cited multiple times. He said one University District resident was slapped with 43 summonses for playing loud music in his home.
"How would you like to live next door to him?" the deputy asked.
Overall, the number of tickets issued for quality-of-life problems has increased by more than 150 percent in the past year, city officials told the Common Council. In fact, Corporation Counsel Alisa A. Lukasiewicz said the city might have to hire more hearing officers who handle challenges, because there are currently more than 1,250 cases that are awaiting hearings.
Brown is surprised that some lawmakers are raising concerns about the recent crackdown, noting that they have been staunch advocates for beefed up enforcement of quality-of-life complaints.
"This is something the City Council has been harping on for years," said the mayor, a former Council member.
Lawmakers who raised questions insist they're supportive of the crackdown. They just think a new policy should be imposed that would give homeowners initial warnings before they receive fines.
South Council Member Michael P. Kearns noted that thousands of citations have been issued for tall grass and weeds during an unusually rainy season that made it difficult for some property owners to keep up with lawn chores.
"That's what our hearing process is for," Brown responded.
In many instances, he said, the citations are thrown out when people make their cases.