BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The city of Birmingham is intensifying efforts to clean up what they deem as “problem properties.”

These are properties that have become a nuisance due to criminal activity or inattention.

The move comes as the city says they are getting repeated calls for crime, drug use or even overgrown lots, while property owners don’t face any sort of punishment or penalty. City Attorney Nicole King is now taking such property owners to court.

”I will tell you, before we file a lawsuit, there has to be extreme circumstances before we will bring action,” King said.

The East Thomas Apartments are the subject of one such lawsuit. The city is asking a judge to declare the long-vacant property a public nuisance, citing past troubles due to arson, violent crimes, illegal drug sales, overdoses and theft.

”The end goal is to make sure that the property owners know that we are paying attention to their inaction to what they are doing on their property,” King said. “They should be held accountable.”

Birmingham City Councilor Hunter Williams says the complex is “bad for the neighborhood.”

“When you look at what’s happening with East Thomas Apartments, [it’s a] type of neglect that violates city code and is a nuisance to the neighborhood,” Williams said.

Williams is also hoping the action against the owners of the East Thomas Apartments will get the attention of other property owners who have allowed their properties to slip into neglect.

“What we are hopeful for, while we are pursuing ownership of these problem properties in civil court, we are hoping that owners of other problem properties will look around and say ‘Hey, I don’t want to be dragged to civil court, I don’t want to pay these fines’,” Williams said.

For King, the end result is a better Birmingham for city residents.

“We are just trying to make Birmingham the best city it can be and this is just our way of doing that,” she said.

King says that since the East Thomas Apartments has a drug nuisance charge, her department has a great deal of leeway in terms of fines — all the way up to $50,000.