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Councilman wants to demolish blighted apartments where child's body was found

A memorial grows for young murder victim next to boarded up apartments. A memorial grows for young murder victim next to boarded up apartments.

Harvey, La. - Behind the mound of stuffed animals that make up a growing memorial for a 6-year-old Harvey murder victim sits a boarded-up apartment building, and given what the west bank community has suffered over the past week, a Jefferson Parish councilman is calling for the quick demolition of several dilapidated properties.

"Some of them you can see that it's been disconnected since 2007," said Councilman Mark Spears, pointing to a list of boarded-up apartment buildings located at the entrance of the Woodmere Subdivision.

He knows the area well, and has been getting comments for months.

"It's an area in which I grew up, and people have complained a lot about the blight," Spears said.

The discovery of the body of little Ahlittia North inside a trash can outside of a group of apartments on Destrehan Avenue last week has Spears pushing for the blighted buildings to be torn down. Some properties on the street have been condemned by the parish.

"It felt like a good time to act on it, based on the events that occurred," Spears said. "I heard the sheriff when he talked about the need to get into some of those places, you know, they were vacant when they were looking for the girl at the time, and that's why I decided to do it."

On Wednesday Spears will ask his colleagues on the Parish Council to expedite the process. A parish code enforcement worker was making the rounds in the area Tuesday afternoon.

Raeshawn Wallace lives on Destrehan Avenue next door to boarded-up units.

"It makes the community look bad anyway," she said. "If they're not doing nothing with it, tear it down."

In all, Spears wants a half-dozen vacant apartment buildings demolished right away, and not all of them are on Destrehan Avenue.

"What I'm targeting is the blight, the places that have remained vacant, places where criminals can put drugs, put cars, hide things, hide people," Spears said.

Spears said vacant properties and blight invite criminal activity, and he believes people in the area deserve better.

"One of the things that we ran on was we want everyone, regardless of where you live, to have a good quality of life, be safe," Spears said. "Statistics show where you have blight, you have crime."

As the community tries to recover from the horrific murder of a small child, residents said at the very least they should not be forced to continue to live with blight.

"It's hurtful, you know, because it could have been my sister," Wallace said.

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