Hanks was hired as Portland’s code enforcement officer in January and has worked 344 cases since then. Portland Police Investigator Aaron Veuleman said code enforcement duties were previously handled by the fire department and the public works department.
“Since the city is growing, they needed someone full-time,” Hanks said.
Hanks’ duties include identifying areas with grass or weeds more than 12 inches high, junked vehicles, unwholesome property, substandard or damaged fences, substandard structures and unwholesome water.
“During the summer, my main focus is on high grass and trees that hang over the streets or sidewalks,” Hanks said.
Hanks is currently working to address issues with overgrown grass in an alleyway near Crosby Street.
“Sometimes people move in, and they don’t know they’re responsible for the alleys,” Hanks said. “Education is our main goal. I try to work with people. Sending a case to court is our last resort.”
Hanks handles the footwork of locating any violations. She makes reports for police investigators, who are in charge of filing violations with the court system. She would like to eventually be able to write citations, which she would need to receive training from the police academy for.
Hanks graduated from Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 2012. Her family lives in Ingleside, and she graduated from Ingleside High School in 2005.
One of Hanks’ main responsibilities will be to identify and make arrangements for cleaning up substandard houses. She is also working on an abatement process for substandard structures.
“The city council’s big on cleaning up the houses that are substandard,” Hanks said. “That’s one of the main reasons they hired me.”
Hanks is currently working to contact owners of substandard houses so necessary reparations can be made to them. Substandard houses within the city include those at 506 Commerce St., 619 Houston St., 1145 Ochoa St. and 717 Dallas St.
Substandard houses can present many safety hazards. Hanks has worked in some that are filled with hornets’ nests, some that have rotted ceilings, and some that have served as congregation spots for drug users. Substandard houses can also serve as hang-out spots for children who are seeking to temporarily escape adult supervision, or cause trouble.
“I try to get them boarded up so kids can’t go in them,” Hanks said.