Martinsburg Drug House Ordinance Utilized for First Time

  • Martinsburg Drug House Ordinance Utilized for First Time

    Martinsburg Drug House Ordinance Utilized for First Time

    The Martinsburg Police Department today announced the first use of the City’s new “Drug and Gang House” ordinance. Last Thursday, Police Chief Maury Richards appeared before the City’s Chief Magistrate to obtain the first Order of Abatement under the innovative ordinance for the building at 446 Faulkner Avenue. The Drug and Gang House ordinance was triggered after MPD officers documented illegal drugs being sold from the building’s second floor apartment during the Department’s “Operation Spring Cleaning” undercover drug enforcement mission. On August 8th, MPD arrested and charged the tenants, Devin Parrish and Brittany Redman, for Distribution of Crack Cocaine. The listed owners of the property are Michael and Claudette Turner of Kearneysville. The Abatement Hearing is set for September 28, 2016 before the Martinsburg Municipal Court.

    “This is the beginning of a new day in Martinsburg,” proclaimed Chief Maury Richards regarding the new ordinance’s inaugural use. “Our drug house ordinance is a powerful tool for our community. It gives us the ability shut down drug houses in our neighborhoods, block by block. It will be an effective part of MPD’s drug-fighting strategy of enforcement, treatment, and prevention,”

    The Order of Abatement for Faulkner Avenue will not only alleviate the immediate problem but also prevent its further recurrence. In addition to evicting the problem-tenants, the Order stipulates that the property owners will perform criminal background checks on future tenants and insure they are “free from convictions for prostitution; illegal gambling; illegal possession, storage, or delivery of or trafficking in controlled substances, or other illegal drug activity.”

    The 400 block of Faulkner had been an area of growing concern to both residents and police. During the past year, MPD officers responded to 30 calls for service at 446 Faulkner alone and observed increasing disorder and drug-related activity on the block. The problem came to a head on August 7th when a man was shot at 437 Faulkner. MPD detectives quickly solved the case by arresting two offenders, but both police and community knew that more had to be done. MPD Captain Kevin Miller, the architect of Operation Spring Cleaning, observed that, “Our officers did a great job in solving the shooting but we knew that we had to do more. Having a drug house in the middle of the block was the root of the problem and would cause nothing but more crime. We got our foot in the door with the “Spring Cleaning” drug arrest, then we were able to kick in the new ordinance, and now we’re shutting down a drug house—the timing couldn’t have been better!”

    Richards and Swartwood have already been in communication with the Faulkner Avenue property owners and were extremely pleased with the results. Chief Richards explained, “We want all property owners to be part of the solution. One of the very important parts of the ordinance states that after a property is declared a ‘nuisance’, owners have 30 days to begin abatement before any fines are imposed. We were impressed that Mr. and Mrs. Turner not only expressed their willingness to fix the problem, but that they were in front of a judge the very next day to take action to evict Parrish and Redman. We’re working together on this and the Turners have our complete support.” Richards stressed the importance of cooperation between property owners, neighborhood residents, and the police. “We’ve said from day one that this ordinance is not intended to punish property owners, but to hold them accountable and assist those who want to be good, responsible neighbors. What we are doing on Faulkner Avenue is a great example of exactly that,” the MPD Chief said.

    Deputy Chief Swartwood noted that the Faulkner Avenue initiative is part of an overall MPD strategy to help build stronger neighborhoods and that he and Chief Richards are already working closely with other residents on the block. “Shutting down drug houses will serve as the catalyst for community-building. We’ve already held meetings with homeowners and other landlords on Faulkner Avenue. They’re enthusiastic. They’re energized. They’re fired up. We’ll be working together to keep this positive momentum moving forward,” Swartwood concluded.