Share this article

print logo

BILL THAT WOULD MANDATE TENANT EVICTIONS WOULD HELP OFFICIALS SHUT DOWN DRUG HOUSES

The Common Council will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Wednesday on a plan to give city officials new powers in eliminating crack houses and other centers of drug sales and other crime.

The proposed "abatement of nuisances" law would give City Court the power to order a landlord to close a building or evict a tenant if drug activities or other crimes are occurring on the premises.

The court order would be a last resort if a warning letter from the police chief or the building inspector failed to produce action by the landlord.

Deputy Corporation Counsel David W. Koplas said the proposal is patterned after an ordinance in effect in Jamestown for the past three years.

Jamestown Corporation Counsel Richard L. Soler Jr. said: "It's having its desired effect in making drug houses harder to come by, and assisting us in our efforts to prevent the use of drugs."

He added Jamestown has never actually had to go to court for an eviction or closure order, in 30 to 35 uses of the law.

"As of this date, we've had 100 percent compliance, and a couple of thank-you letters from landlords thanking us for helping them get rid of these unruly tenants," Soler said.

Soler said in Jamestown, "we actually receive calls from landlords asking if a person has been subject to a prior eviction letter."

He said the city does not run full background checks on prospective renters, but does provide information on whether the city has sought their eviction before.

He said the law was first used in Manhattan, and Chautauqua County District Attorney Joseph Subjack suggested it to Jamestown.

Niagara County District Attorney Matthew J. Murphy III addressed the Lockport Common Council in August in support of the proposal, which is sponsored by Alderman John T. Pitrello, D-3rd Ward, who is also president of the city Board of Police Commissioners.

Pitrello said the plan was suggested to him by members of the Niagara County Drug Task Force.

"They thought this would be a useful law," he said. "Basically, it's aimed at drugs, whether users or traffickers."

Koplas pointed out that the law only can be used if a person commits a crime on a particular premises. A person selling drugs on a street corner, for example, could not be evicted unless drugs were found in his apartment.

Soler said there have been no legal challenges to the law's validity in Jamestown and state courts have upheld the Manhattan version.

The Lockport law would declare a public nuisance exists where behavior occurs "which unreasonably interferes with the health, safety, peace, comfort, or convenience of the community . . . regardless of whether or not a person has been convicted."

There are no comments - be the first to comment