HARLINGEN — As the excavator crashed its jaw through the roof of the home, it spelled the end for one of the city’s biggest problem residences.
“Operation Crackdown,” the Texas National Guard’s effort to improve communities by subtraction of abandoned and dilapidated housing, is here to remove 23 of the neglected homes.
Yesterday, it was 513 West Monroe’s turn.
“The 16 properties that were taken down today represent over 277 calls for service over the last three years,” said Police Chief Jeffry Adickes.
“That’s 277 times that the Harlingen Police Department had to respond to calls for service or cries for help from these neighbors.”
For Adickes and his officers, the removal of the home on West Monroe has special significance and its destruction probably calls for some kind of departmental celebration.
“The house behind me, 513 West Monroe, represents about 65 percent of those calls,” the chief said. “In the last three years we had about 180 calls here just alone. And that includes prostitution, assault, disturbances, drugs and gangs.”
This year, fifth-graders from Crockett Elementary were involved in yesterday’s ceremony, chanting encouragement of “Tear it down!” as Guard soldiers made ready to begin the demolition process.
It marks the seventh year the National Guard has come to the city to help remove unwanted properties. It is part of the guard’s Joint Counterdrug Taskforce and uses soldiers working in demolition units to remove dangerous or undesirable structures at no cost to communities.
“With your help at the end of this operation, we will have torn down 205 of these old structures,” said Mayor Chris Boswell. “That’s 205 places that the criminals have lost, 205 places that the drug users have lost, and 205 places where disease-carrying animals can no longer hide.
“And just as important, that’s 205 places that not only look better, but are adding value to the surrounding properties and making residents proud of their neighborhood,” he added.
Col. Miguel Torres, commanding officer of the unit doing the demolition, said he was honored to be serving here on behalf of his commander, Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the adjutant-general of Texas.
“We’re glad to be here,” Torres said. “We’re so proud and happy to come back to this neighborhood, to this great city of Harlingen, to collaborate, and again, take some of these structures that have drugs (and) illicit activity … off of the community.”
Chief Adickes said the demolition of the 513 W. Monroe address was the result of a two-year effort to finally rid the neighborhood of the blighted building and its occupants.
“You know when you erase a chalkboard at school and its blank?” he said, addressing the Crockett fifth-graders. “It’s going to be a fresh start for this neighborhood and this lot. And that means an opportunity for a new family to come in and build a future on this very street in the 500 block of West Monroe.”