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The city's neighborhood challenges are many, from crime to blighted properties to streets and sidewalks in need of repair.

The Brown administration has taken a targeted approach, using data collected through emergency and non-emergency calls for service to identify areas of high need, plagued by such problems as rats, absentee landlords or drug dealers.

Twenty-one such areas have been visited through the city's Clean Sweep program, where teams from various city departments, including Police, Public Works, Inspections and Citizen Services converge on a city block in one day. City workers are joined by people in welfare-to-work programs, utility company representatives and health professionals from the University at Buffalo's School of Dental Medicine and D'Youville College.

Residents receive dental kits, and they can get information about how to apply for health insurance. City crews remove old tires and debris from problem properties, erase graffiti and trim trees. Building inspectors write up code violations, and police use drug-sniffing dogs in suspect areas and animal control officers to remove unlicensed dogs.

"Our goal is, once we leave these communities ... we want them to be dramatically different than when we came in," said Mayor Byron W. Brown, who said he attends 90 percent of the events.

The city does not notify the neighborhood in advance that city crews will be coming.

Last week, teams were on Shirley Avenue between Bailey and Comstock avenues, where a heavy police presence surrounded access to the block, and Animal Control was taking away unlicensed pit bulls from a backyard.

Calls to the city's 311 line, which addresses non-emergency complaints, are an indicator of the problems in each neighborhood. The line received more than 1,100 calls in July about housing code violations, more than 270 about pests, and 281 about rodents.

Citizen Services can pick up on other neighborhood issues during a sweep.

Renia Watson, who lives on Shirley Avenue, said she hoped she could get some help with some overgrown bushes, which have become a haven for bees, she said.

"I think it's a good thing," she said of the sweep. "We need it."

Brown recognized the efforts of West Seneca residents Ken and Kim Hansen, who have handed out about 150 carbon monoxide detectors during Clean Sweep events.

The Hansens' daughter, Amanda, died in 2009 after she was poisoned by carbon monoxide during a sleepover, and they have raised awareness of the importance of carbon monoxide detection through legislation, known as Amanda's Law.

They've distributed more than 6,000 detectors in the last three years.





email: jterreri@buffnews.com