Cocoa police partner with code enforcers to get crime results

Partnership formed in effort to clean up Cocoa neighborhoods

COCOA, Fla. – A city in Brevard County is getting crime results using code enforcement.

In Cocoa, police are working with code enforcers to get rid of drug houses, prostitute havens and nuisance spots in an effort to clean up neighborhoods throughout the city.

News 6's Erik Von Ancken rode along as the SWAT team hit a house they learned of through code enforcement.

Von Ancken said three juveniles who were wanted for serious, violent felonies were inside the home, and because of complaints made by neighbors to code enforcement, police were able to find them.

Cocoa police said that incident was just one example of why Cocoa police made code enforcement a part of the department.

Von Ancken was also present as an 18-year-old accused of terrorizing his neighbors from a home in the Diamond Square community, which police called a “hot spot,” was arrested.

One day later, Von Ancken returned and saw the man who helped build the case against the teenager, as well as against two others accused of robbing 12-year-olds on their way to school.

"What was happening here? We've gotten complaints here from people selling drugs, younger people congregating here and harassing people that came by, “ Cocoa code enforcement manager Dennis Bunt said.

It was Bunt’s team that took the first tips, which eventually led police to making the arrests.

"What did you see? Well, like here we have an outdoor fridge -- code violation, but also a conduit for people to congregate out front," Bunt said.

Police said that’s exactly what was happening, and what neighbors who care about their community, like Denise Brown, were complaining about.

"I just know the police were always over there, especially late nights -- 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning they'd be over there, cause the officers come and ring my door bell 5 or 6 o'clock in the morning sometimes," Brown, a new homeowner in the area, said.

"By working together, we're stopping vagrants, stopping people from entering homes and stealing wires, homeless people living in them," Bunt said.

Bunt said the new partnership isn’t just code enforcement tipping off police, and that officers are returning the favor by adding extra eyes to spot code violations.

Bunt also said the purpose isn’t to nitpick – it’s to get crime results.

"There is a purpose, and it's to make the neighborhood better and bring up the property values and safety, and you do that by getting rid of crime,” Bunt said. “A lot of people think you're just picking on people. A lot of people do. And there's a purpose for that."

The Cocoa code enforcement department is small, according to Bunt, who told News 6 that he only has three officers. He said the size of his department made it difficult to keep up with covering the entire city, but with police as their partners, every officer is effectively now a code enforcement officer.

Bunt said his officers are now getting results and addressing issues faster because they're finding out about problems sooner, with police helping them identify issues.

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