LONGWOOD, Fla. - It's no secret Florida has a lot of vacant homes, but now Longwood's police chief is working on a new program to get the ones in his town cleaned up.
City officials said there are roughly 20 deteriorating and vacant houses throughout town, including one where investigators said a man planned to rape and murder young girls. But Channel 9 learned Longwood Police Chief Troy Hickson is trying to make sure other criminals won't have the same chance.
Hickson wants to reduce the code enforcement fines that have piled up on foreclosed homes, so they'll be more attractive to buyers and help reduce crime.
"The community realizes somebody is watching and when people know that people are watching, it's going to reduce crime," said Officer Kevin Tuck.
One home is worth about $40,000, but has nearly $9,000 in fines racked up. The city would the fine to a $1,000 fee to cover the costs taxpayers have already had to cover.
Resident Greg Flowers thinks it's a win-win for buyers and the community.
"I think the sooner they can get someone in there and give it an uplift, upgrade, whatever you are talking about, that would be good for the neighborhood," Flowers said.
The city is reducing the fines for certain homes after the owners walked away, and city officials didn’t want future buyers to be burdened.
But homeowners who violate city codes and continue to live in their homes will still be fined, officials said.