Cameron Co. Residents Worried About Dangerous Property

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HARLINGEN – Several Harlingen residents said they are scared to walk down the street near a condemned building that’s making their neighborhood unsafe.

They want to know why the building, located at 513 W Monroe Avenue, is still standing.

The Harlingen Police Department said the most recent call to the condemned property lead to three arrests for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS found the number of calls for disturbance or other events at the location have averaged 48 a year over the past five years.

A woman, who we will call Amy, said she’s seen her beautiful Harlingen neighborhood deteriorate since about 2012.

“I believe there are illegal activities, cars passing back and forth. We just want this to be over.  How come they cannot investigate? Take the dog and see what’s going on in there,” she said. “It’s not right. We cannot walk around there. Children cannot pass by. You walk around there; they’re going to think you’re a prostitute. So they want to pick you up. So, it’s very scary.”

Amy and her neighbors were told the city would demolish the building more than a year ago. Still nothing has been done.

Though she’s fearful of retaliation, Amy said she felt the need to speak up.

“The man that lives there is still there, and we just want this to be over. Because this is supposed to be quiet, be able to walk and do everything you need to do without being afraid,” she said.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS obtained a public information report from Harlingen police detailing how many times they have been called to the house over the last five years.

The report is two and a half pages front and back, with calls ranging from assault, subject with a knife, subject with a gun, among others.

Harlingen Police Sgt. John Parrish explained why the home has not been demolished.

“The police department actually requested for it to be put on the demolition list through Operation Crackdown. Later, it was removed from the list due to – I believe it was asbestos issues in the home,” he said. “I believe the property itself was in rears and some taxes were owed and a new owner took over the home. We have been working with that owner to get it back on the demolition list.”

We went to City Hall to see what could be done about the asbestos.

Assistant Harlingen City Manager Gabriel Gonzalez explained the city found a solution for the asbestos. But he said later new roadblocks occurred.

“The previous owner is still in the property and we can’t demolish an existing unit with someone still in it,” he said.

Gonzalez said the new owner of the property will have to complete the eviction of the former owner before the house can be demolished.

Eviction is a civil matter, so at the moment Gonzalez said the demolition is out of the city’s hands.

The assistant city manager explained the eviction process can take months. He said once the previous owner is evicted, the city can help the new owner demolish the home. 

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