In an effort to improve enforcement of minor code violations, Rehoboth has changed a number of infractions from criminal misdemeanors to civil citations. The city code enforcement officer will now write tickets instead of calling upon the police to write a criminal summons.
Rehoboth commissioners voted unanimously in favor of the changes during their meeting June 21. City Code Enforcement Officer Dennis Jeney brought the changes forward June 10 during a commissioner workshop.
“I’m not out to start writing tickets,” said Jeney. “However we have flagrant, repeat violators because they know nothing is going to happen. I believe if we could just cite them and be done with it, we’d have better compliance.”
The first area of change is enforcing violations of the sign ordinance on public property. Jeney said free-standing signs for businesses on sidewalks and realtor signs scattered on city rights-of-ways are regular violators. He said the businesses and realtors think it’s a game.
“They know there’s no consequences,” said Jeney. “I wasn’t going to call the police out to give them tickets. They would get the big picture if I were able to give them a fine.”
Jeney said he also spends a lot of time each year chasing down businesses to renew their licenses. Business licenses must be renewed by June 30 each year; he said sometimes it’s October before certain businesses get a new license.
In both instances, the change allows Jeney to write a $100 ticket every day there’s a violation.
During the workshop, Commissioner Toni Sharp asked Jeney how changing the violation from criminal to civil would improve enforcement.
Jeney said getting the police to write a ticket or summons because of tall grass isn’t the most efficient use of anyone’s time, especially when that property owner lives across the country.
“If I’m able to write a $100 civil citation, future issues will go away because they would see the city means business,” said Jeney.
Police Chief Keith Banks said the police department is in favor of the changes.
City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas said some violations should remain criminal, because it gets the attention of a property owner, but he said these changes make sense.
As part of the changes, the zoning code dealing with signs will require an amendment, which means the city must hold a public hearing. Commissioners set the public hearing for their next regular meeting, Friday, July 19.