DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. (FOX 5 Atlanta) - Watching an eyesore demolished frame by frame is a sight for sore eyes in the Brannon Hills Community near Clarkston off Memorial College Drive.
"What's going on here today is overdue. We've been living in crisis," said Behre Tesfamarian, who lived in Brannon Hills for more than 20 years.
Tesfarmarian is one of many residents who told FOX 5's Portia Bruner it's a relief to see DeKalb County officials keep their promise to tear down homes that have been dangerous for years.
"This was unsafe for our families and for our children. I think the crime will be less of a problem now," said Brannon Hills resident Wasarmeh Bured, who immigrated to the U.S. from East Africa.
Between code violations and buildings left abandoned after fires, refugees from Africa, Asia and Europe found themselves surrounded by buildings that became havens for crime.
Brandon Hills had the infamous reputation of being the worst neighborhood in America and we had to intervene," said DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond.
In 2017, Thurmond asked DeKalb County Commissioners to set aside $3.8 million to begin the process of legally seizing dilapidated private properties so that they could be destroyed. Thursday's demolition is the third phase of a long-term project.
"These people are here in this country legally and they love this country and deserve better. We are doing what we can to help them. We're tearing down 52 homes, but there are about a hundred others that will still stand here," Thurmond said.
County commissioner Nancy Jester said county officials will work with residents who live in buildings identified for demolition.
"Anytime you remove blight, you remove an opportunity for crime. But, we also have to work with the families to help them find new housing and get them settled so they can enjoy a better life," said Jester.