Alamosa targets “drug houses” with nuisance ordinance
ALAMOSA Police Chief Ken Anderson brought to City Council a proposal to add a new ordinance to Alamosa’s Code of Ordinances that would target the city’s “nuisance properties.”
The proposed ordinance will be the subject of a public hearing at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
The article’s new addition will, above all, address nuisance properties that have seen more than 30 narcotic operations over the past year, according to the police chief. During these operations, police find repeat offenders, meth and heroin, weapons, and up to thousands of dollars in cash, Anderson said.
The operations, he said, are becoming more dangerous.
The proposed ordinance would also target other so-called nuisance properties, where alleged prostitution and other alleged illegal activities occur.
Under the proposal, “Notices of violations will be provided to property owners since many times they may not know that their tenants are operating the property in a nuisance manner. If the property owner declines to initiate any action to remedy the situation, the Chief of Police can then direct the City Attorney to file a petition for an order to close the property into Municipal Court, where the Judge will take into consideration evidence presented by the Chief of Police and property owner before issuing a judgement.”
The city council moved the proposed ordinance to a public hearing following initial approval two weeks ago. Changes made to the ordinance since then include:
- Making clear that if the owner is diligently pursuing cure, and it is taking longer than 30 days, the City recognizes that some situations may take longer to cure, and will not seek closure so long as cure is diligently pursued.
- Eliminating the provisions including repeated disturbance of the peace and furnishing liquor to minors from the definition of what constitutes a nuisance, as well as mere possession (as opposed to manufacture, sale, distribution) of illegal drugs.
- A few other minor changes were made addressing the manner of serving the notice and changing the period of notice to 30 days (consistent with having 30 days to cure – a housekeeping change).
Anderson said Alamosa’s drug problem and nuisance properties are a bigger problem than the community realizes. He said not every operation gets a press release..
Why It Matters
The root of this ordinance is to give the city “some bite” in combating alleged “drug houses” and giving police another tool to combat Alamosa’s systemic drug problem.
“We have a problem we’re trying to address. … It’s overwhelming,” Anderson said. The problem is rooted in the houses, but it’s the repeat offenses and offenders that Anderson is referring to.
As part of its background briefing to city council members, the city contends it has been unable to get the District Attorney and his office to help the police department crack down on repeat offenders and subsequently its “drug houses.”
“State statute provides a remedy for such public nuisances at C.R.S. 16-13-301 to 16-13-316. The statute provides a mechanism in state court for forfeiture of the nuisance property in serious circumstances, or for closing the property (boarding it up) for a period of time for less serious circumstances. The statute envisions a civil action brought by the District Attorney. The Alamosa Police Department has not had success in working with our local District Attorney to invoke this statute, and so the community has experienced instances of recurring nuisances that are not being addressed.”
Alamosa Citizen sat down with Chief Anderson to better understand the motivation to address alleged “drug houses” and other nuisance properties through a municipal ordinance rather than application of the state statute..
“The motivation is accountability,” he said. It’s accountability in the police department to find ways to get rid of the problem houses, and do it safely. “Every neighborhood within this community has a right to peace and quiet and safety, and if I continue to do these ops, and am doing nothing about that illegal activity continuing and having a pattern, then what good am I?”
The “drug houses” and problem properties are all over town, and are often keystones, finding themselves the subject of narc ops multiple times. Properties such as 1016 Edison, 10 La Veta, 708 11th, and 1020 3rd have been sites of multiple operations.
“When we arrest multiple people for distribution of illegal narcotics, we put all this effort in protecting and serving our community. And it’s a matter of hours, could be a couple days, before the individuals we have arrested for the violations are now back out on the street and back in business, bigger and better…. It’s getting frustrating.”
When asked what the reason for closing down a property deemed a nuisance is, he said simply, “Closing down their business. … We need some accountability for illegal actions going on around here.”