PETERSBURG - There's a strong effort to tear down blighted properties in Petersburg, and the city is getting help tackling the problem.
The partnership between the Virginia National Guard and city leaders is part of Operation Renew, which started on August 19, and will continue until Friday.
Now, for the second year in a row -- the Virginia National Guard is providing most of the man power and equipment to tear down 20 vacant properties, saving more than $200,000 the city would have to spend on its own for this kind of work.
Petersburg resident John Crittendon lives next to a vacant property on Halifax Street, and he's happy to see to the Virginia National Guard tear it down.
"It's a big problem," he says. "People are sleeping in them, doing drugs in them, so they should tear them down, they've been here for years, and they're sitting there."
Just last year, a man was killed at this same location.
"It was one of my best friends," he says. "So I think they should go."
Petersburg's police chief John Dixon says Operation Renew is helping in the fight against crime in the city.
"It was dark. It was a place that criminals could go. That everybody else did not want to go. So it gave them a chance to be undercover in whatever they were doing."
"We've decreased crime as a whole tremendously in the city as a whole. When I got here seven years ago, we had like 263 robberies. Last year, we had like in the 50s."
City manager William Johnson says projects like Operation Renew could help create more redevelopment in Petersburg.
"It's easier to sell a vacant lot to a potential developer," he says. "Less it would cost to redevelop the property. Plus, it makes the city look clean."
Copyright 2013 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond
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