DALLAS –– Two months ago, cutting open a locked gate and walking into a back yard without permission would have been illegal for the mosquito unit of the city of Dallas.
"The new law signed by the governor on May 10, allows us to go on to properties that are reasonably presumed to be abandoned, foreclosed or vacant, " said Dallas Environmental Specialist Michael Sanders.
Since then, the Department of Code Compliance has entered dozens of properties that are potential health hazards because of mosquito concerns. Many will have unattended pools of standing water.
"This is perfect conditions for mosquito breeding in a swimming pool," says Sanders, looking at a slime-green cesspool that was once a swimming pool.
Authorities believe the new law, which allows them to bypass getting a warrant to enter a vacant property, is helping reduce mosquitoes in many neighborhoods. Some residents say it's not enough.
"There's quite a bit of standing water," says Anna Marie Chiofani of a neighbor's yard, "And it's caused a major mosquito problem here."
Chiofani says the mosquito problems make it impossible for her children play safely outdoors. Two birdbaths and a metal bathtub filled with water are clearly visible in her neighbor's back yard.
Authorities say, in cases like this, they can't just barge in.
"A property owner or occupant still retains all their rights," said Sanders. "We still have to go through the process of getting a warrant if in fact they won't let us on their property."
Code Compliance does have a mosquito complaint on record for the property Chiofani reported on South Winnetka. Sanders said investigators found no evidence of breeding mosquitoes. The case was closed.
The abandoned property pool was treated.
"That should keep it mosquito free through the end of the season," said Sanders of the larvae control tablets he tossed into the cesspool.
Problem properties can be reported in the city of Dallas by calling 3-1-1. Health authorities say, when it comes to West Nile virus and mosquitoes, it's critical for residents to take responsibility for themselves and their own yards.