Repeated complaints about a reputed drug house in East Fort Worth finally lead to action Monday morning.
Fort Worth police and code enforcement officers are tearing down the house that has been a major problem for residents and police alike. Officers said they've arrested countless people for drug use and prostitution over the last decade at the house in the 700 block of South Sargent Street in the West Meadowbrook neighborhood.
During the last decade, several homeowners spoke during city council and lobbied for the Code Compliance Department to take action. Neighbor Jeff Empante estimates he's spoken with the Fort Worth Police Department 200 times over the past few years.
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"You feel totally helpless as an average citizen," Empante said. "We have no recourse against drug traffickers, who are able to do what they do and take full advantage of absent property owners. Meanwhile, we try to abide by the law."
Code Compliance workers razed the house, which Empante said relieved residents.
"This structure had hundreds of people in it over the years," he said. "There have been serious crimes here. Severe beatings, open prostitution, open sale of drugs."
NBC 5 also spoke with the property owner, who said he's also tried in vain to keep squatters out.
"I know there've been problems, but the city has come in and taken over me and not the people that were causing the problem," Eugene Oehler, who claimed to be the property owner, said. "I did what I could."
Oehler said he's been trying to locate a buyer for the property, with no luck. He said he can't afford the court injunction to keep the house upright any longer.
"I was not unaware of the problems, but if you don't have money, it takes money," Oehler said. "I'm a retired teacher, my income is less than $2,000 a month. I can't live and spend $10,000 in court h trying to save this house."
Neighbors said he should have done more over the past 10 years to keep crime out, and they're glad the property is finally being torn down.
"We're overjoyed," Empante said.
West Meadowbrook homeowners credit City Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray with being more proactive in fighting property owners whose houses become vacant drug dens.
Gray was elected to City Council in 2012; she told NBC5 she's been fighting on behalf of concerned homeowners to get the house razed since taking office.
Councilwoman Gray also said she wants bring back citywide Nuisance Abatement Teams to the city to help fight problems like this in other neighborhoods.