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Nuisance law info provided

March 24, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

Nuisance homes and businesses in Washington County that drive down property values and make neighbors afraid to go outside don't have to stay that way, according to Joe Michael of the State's Attorney's Office.

A nuisance law that can give drug abatement efforts a boost has been used successfully in Baltimore, and such a law could be used here to address such problems, he said.

The public can help authorities identify homes and businesses in which drugs are being sold or used or which are otherwise causing a problem, Michael said during a Thursday night meeting of the HotSpot Community Mobilization Committee.

"If someone is creating a nuisance or allowing a nuisance to continue, the State's Attorney's Office can do something about it," he said.

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He said residents who notice suspicious activity in homes and businesses should contact police, who would then send the tenants or owners a letter advising them of the complaint.

Michael said suspicious activity could involve something like an excessive amount of visitors to a home at different times of the day or night.

The recipients of such complaints would be given time to correct the situation.

Suggestions of ways to rectify the situation would be provided and Michael said it would help if neighbors could come up with ideas as well.

"The open-ended nature of this law is that you get to be creative in letting them know what the remedy is," Michael said.

In some situations, homeowners may be forced to evict tenants for the good of the community, he said.

Michael recommended that landlords screen tenants carefully and have police conduct background checks.

Regular inspections of the property can be made part of the lease, he said.

"The good thing about this is that you're hitting the property owners who will first lose their freedoms with their property and eventually lose the properly entirely" if they don't comply, Michael said.

He expects to see results with the program since "landlords want the rent but they don't want the place wrecked or the hatred of the community," he said.

A nuisance drug abatement law would not be used lightly and people would be taken to court only if they made no attempt to correct the problem. In extreme cases in Baltimore, nuisance buildings have been torn down, he said.

"We'll go slow at first and work with folks to get some results voluntarily before tangling in the courts," Michael said.

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