There are several wrinkles to iron out for this plan but a show of hands at last nights meeting showed all in attendance were in favor of the plan with one attendee dissenting. According to one of the attorneys in attendance it is much easier to present a civil suit than a criminal suit. Among those approving of the plan were RPD Chief David Moore and police offficer LeRon Singletary.
With so many people approving perhaps I missed some important piece of information though I would "approve" of suing drug dealers too.... just not sure those wrinkles will iron out. We shall see. I hope something happens soon because I just came back from picking up food from Thurston Road and it was pretty bad out there.
OK I'll bite. I think this is a good idea but not practical. It puts civilians at risk. Civil suits are not anonymous and drug dealers are dangerous. I also don't think the idea is "new." Frankly, I thought this was the point behind the creation of NET Offices. Identify problem properties and bring resources together (RPD, code enforcement, etc) to shut them down. I pay taxes for these services and it seems the onus of the responsibility is again being passed to me.
Just as an example there is a problem property on Marlborough. The police were called to that property 14 times in one year. To my knowledge nothing has been done. Are we then suppose to file a civil suit when we have already committed to calling the police numerous times? I, for one, don't live within 200 feet of the place. 200 feet is only about 4 houses distance.
On the other hand, I have a security alarm in my house (which requires me to pay for a permit). If the police are dispatched to my home because of a false alarm I am "fined" each and every time. Obviously there are ways to keep track of these things.
What is wrong with a city that can fine a law abiding person and not shut down a drug house?
I personally spend time on Thurston, contribute to the community in various ways, and I'm not that averse to risk but I'm not filing a civil suit. Is there anyone reading this who can honestly say that you would?
I was at the meeting last night but left early. My impressions as follows:
The first 30 minutes was Chief Moore talking to/with the group. He praised the group for "all of the hard work we've done" (sort of strange to me since it was only the 2nd meeting). He talked about the need for 'relationship building', partnership, etc. He responded to some questions from concerned citizens re: SLOW police response to calls and LACK of police response to obvious situations that occur when police are present (i.e. LOUD music, littering, groups of people loitering, etc). He agreed that police NOT responding to these things is not acceptable and asked to be informed when this happens. One citizen raised the point that it seems absurd to have to call 911 re: loud music when the police are right there and able to hear it themselves!
Re: the 'street watch' civil suit idea.... it's an interesting idea and my understanding is that CIVIL suits can be brought for "nuisance properties". At this point, street watch is ONLY focusing on drug house nuisance properties - bringing a case to the court will REQUIRE evidence and the evidence will have to come (in part) from CITIZENS. THe way i understand this is that I'd have to give evidence about observing drug activity (i.e. traffic, drug parephenalia, etc) and this evidence would be used to move forward with a civil suit.
I asked whether this focus could include other than 'drug houses' and was told no.
I am all for getting rid of drug houses, but drugs are only part of the problem here. If Adam can get attorney's to do some pro bono work why not also focus on things such as property violations, the 'clubs' on Thurston, littering, etc?? Let's do something about the trashy houses on Thurston - they certainly seem to meet the criteria for nuisance properties. Let's get the attorney's to help take care of all of the other property/code violations that NSC won't/can't do something about!
Finally, I was expecting that we would hear an UPDATE on each and every problem area that was identified in the first meeting but that didn't happen before I left so I am not sure if that 'follow up' thing we talked about in the first meeting is still part of this initiative (or not).
Since I had class til 8pm last night, I was unable to attend the meeting. So thank you for the updates everyone.
I guess I am still processing all the information. Part of me thinks this could be a great tool to help combat these drug houses. But if WE need evidence, then what good is that? Do I stand out front taking pictures!?!
Then part of me is feed up with the 19th Ward residents being required to take on even more responsibility. Like I have the time and energy to file a lawsuit, let along collect evidence. Like Sheri said, isn't that why we pay taxes?
And then on the subject of the lack of Police response, are you kidding me. We DO complain (that's why we are having these meetings) about the lack of response. Our friends that live near Park Ave, never complain about the lack of police response! I can understand that our part of the city might have more activity to respond to. And I think that that can lead to desensitizing to this certain types of activity. But I do feel, that the police have an attitude about the "non-Park Ave areas" of the city, an it's not a good one. Not all cops are like this, but I had the opportunity to have an inside look at the police academy, when a friend of mine enlisted, and saw my fair share of this type of cop. It becomes a "job", and or an ego trip, as it was for my friend. It's disappointing really. So I will bring things up to Chief Moore, but it's a change of culture that's needed, not a talk from their commander.
I am in the middle of a big proposal for a nonprofit and need to make this brief, but will have more thoughts later.
Re the "Park Ave" friends who never complain. not quite so. As the secretary of the Highland Eastside PCIC for over a decade I can assure you that cititizens attending PCIC (and those who did not) quickly brought complaints to the then NET Lt and Eastside Commander (who use to attend all our meetings til the last Commander was installed, recently it was just the NET Lt, CPO's and maybe a Captain).
At PCIC there were regular complaints (for the purpose of problem solving, usually) about officers failing to do noise depositions from citizens or about cop not handling problems usefully, etc. and concern about the lack of police presence in the n'hoods, slow response to calls.
From my experience a key to getting things addressed was showing up at PCIC regularly, communicating concerns regularly, and the Commander or Net Lt. addressing the issue on the spot and then following up (ie educating them to regulations/policies, letting them know what the standard is) with personnel about changing their behavior. For example, it took them months/a couple years? to educate Eastside cops to enforcing the noise ordinance, for example. Because of this regular communication at PCIC cops and concerned neighbors often talked/met during the month to address issues, a nice model of partnership. Perhaps alot of that is happening here already, and I suspect that many concerned citizens do not attend PCIC, perhaps because they think it doesn't make a difference. Not so. You can make it make a difference.
Although I do not have the details of the purpose of the public safety meetings monthly re Thurston RD. (I have had conflicts on those Weds.) it seems to me it makes sense to have a link between that group and PCIC (perhaps a rep. who is part of the PCIC and updates us on the Thurston issues, as they do affect us all). The same goes for any other public safety group that meets monthly in the SW, they should be somehow linked to PCIC, which was set up for citizens and cops to work together to solve crime and quality of life issues.
Your right MacClurg. Direct involvement is key. I was venting my frustrations in my post last night. I wish I could make the meetings, but I have a conflict those nights (school). A HUGE thank you for keeping us updated with the posting of the PCIC meeting minutes.
The reason the NSC route is so frustrating, as was pointed out at the meeting, is that there is only ONE city attorney to handle all the litigation over nuisance properties. The point of this, as I understand it, was to bring in attorneys who would work pro bono on behalf of the complainant. Now there's the rub. Can we get enough volunteer attorney hours to do the job?
It was suggested that currently with the slow economy there are many attorneys with time on their hands. That was said by another attorney, so perhaps he's in the know on that.
As for being able to fine you for a false alarm as opposed to shutting down a drug house...Sheri, you know better than that. How much effort is involved in A) determining that there was a false alarm and B) issuing the invoice?
Versus all of the police hours required to do an investigation of a drug house that A) won't be thrown out because the police violated constitutionally guaranteed rights and B) will provide enough evidence to hold up in court.
Conversely, going the civil route with the nuisance suits -- ONE ATTORNEY handles ALL of those for the entire city. Now, I would be fine with paying more taxes to hire all the attorneys we need...but very few in this city would go along with that as most feel already overburdened tax-wise.
And as I said, yes, I would file that suit. Everybody on Chili Ave. knows I call 911 regularly, and they all saw me walking for two months with the foot patrol detail. While I've experienced some harassment (thugs standing on the corner talking trash, for instance) I have never once felt my personal safety was at risk from them. It was just annoying.
Other than the vandalism I experienced when I first moved in, I haven't even had a porch pot overturned, nor even a scratch on my car.
Finally, yes, it is frustrating to be calling the police all the time. So, here's another route to get rid of the drug house so you don't HAVE to call the police.
I know you would file a suit, Georgia, and I'm truly grateful that you would. It won't help Thurston, however. You'll have to wait until they get to Chili. Adam has advised that "the city" can bring the suit and it doesn't have to be resident individuals. I think this helps.
In regard to false alarm fines vs drug houses you are correct though the "fine" process is not as easy on resources as you suggest. When I moved in the previous owner had not paid her fines and the city tried to charge me for it. When I protested they assigned an RPD INVESTIGATOR to this. How's that for a waste of precious resources? And there are likely 30-40 people on my street with alarms and maybe one drug house. One point I was trying to raise is that NSC needs to play a roll in shutting down the drug houses in addition to RPD. Why are fines/code violations not being written on these properties and why are they not being followed up on? I'm referring to all the work that should be happening before a lawsuit. When I complain to NSC about a problem property several times and I'm told "we've tried but we can't get in touch with the landlord...he's out of state" and then I get on-line, find out who the landlord is and how to reach him, and I am speaking with that landlord within 10 minutes what is going on?!?
Civil suits, if they happen, should only be one tool in the arsenal. We have to bring pressure on city entities to do their jobs too.
Sheri, I know I don't live on Thurston. I was just making a point -- much of the fear people have of having their names out in the open like that is more imagination than reality. And I think retaliation would be even less of an issue with the lawsuits for nuisance property. In any case, if people band together there is even LESS chance of being the brunt of retaliation.
As for the issue with the NSC and all the excuses...well, if I say what I really think no doubt someone will chime in with an emotional defense of our fearless NSC administrator. But my experience and the experience of many I know has been that the majority of effort is put into creating an illusion of effort, particularly when the spotlight is on. Once the spotlight is taken away, all reverts to "normal."
I think those of us who are frustrated with the response would do well to start documenting every instance (such as the one you describe above) of inadequate response, and then take that up with the Mayor.
Last night we allowed the Chief to address the group because he felt the need to be in the community more to hear from the citizens. He did praise the people in the room because even after two meetings we had given them more details about our community as it pertains to Drug Dealing and Drug House than ever before.
Problem Areas from Last Month
By pinning the board our mayor saw fit to place an additional Camera on Thurston at Rosalind.
We also got RTS to commit to removing the bus shelter at Milton Street. Although they want to now place it at Ravenwood so I am meeting with them again next week.
As for the property's listed on the board we received correspondence from RPD that some of the property are not drug houses and we did not provide enough detail on others. I believe two are being taken very seriously because of known drug activity.
By now many of you have seen the news about the initiative. It's a pilot so that's why we have no short term plans to expand it to include other types of property violations. I am reading the posts and I am confused because the reality of this is if we don't take action nothing will ever change? We do have a NCS office who should be working on this but we only have one lawyer who actually works on the cases for the whole city and believe me she spends most of her time on Bars and Night Clubs and their issues. A citizen filing a civil suit is only one aspect of this. The city also can file the civil suit and have the volunteer lawyer represent the city as well. Remember we have only one lawyer working on this...... My aim is to arm us with as many tools as possible to go after this problem it is not the answer to everything but it is the start of correcting our drug dealing issues. Street Watch also will coordinate the communication with rehabilitation counselors, police, DSS (we are subsidizing some of these properties) also child protective services. Citizens who are afraid to file a suit can have the City be the lead and file. The most important thing about this is additional manpower and speed we can now move at shutting down a drug house. The way we have been going at it takes too long (6 months). That's not efficient and that's not fair to our community.
While we debate who is willing to file a suit the drug dealers are operating business as usual. This will only work if lock arms and fight together anything less than that, they win......