MPD Shuts Down 12th Drug House Using City Ordinance

  • MPD Shuts Down 12th Drug House Using City Ordinance

    MPD Shuts Down 12th Drug House Using City Ordinance

    The Martinsburg Police Department announced a major success today with two more drug arrests and the shutting down of another illegal drug selling operation, this time at 800 West King Street.  The latest success is the 12th problem building shut down under Martinsburg’s “Drug House Ordinance.”  The latest use of the ordinance was triggered after MPD officers executed a search warrant at the King Street rental property on September 2nd.  The police made two arrests and recovered quantities of heroin, crack cocaine, and marijuana; a digital scale used for weighing drugs; drug packaging materials; $1,093 in suspected drug money; and a handgun.

    On the morning of September 2nd, Corporal Justin Harper obtained a search warrant for the house after he and fellow MPD officers observed evidence of on-going drug activity while assisting Fire Department medics on an overdose call at the residence.  After making a forced entry into the upstairs of the building, officers observed Angela Stephens in possession of a quantity of heroin and a syringe.  Stephens was placed in custody and charged with possession of heroin.  As the officers continued their search, they entered an upstairs bedroom where they discovered Tawana Walford lying in a bed and partially covered by blankets and pillows.  Found in her possession were two purses containing a semi-automatic pistol, several bags of heroin and cocaine, marijuana, and a wad of cash totaling $1,093.  The digital scale was found on the bedroom nightstand.  Walford was arrested and charged with two felony counts for possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.

    Earlier today, Police Chief Maury Richards appeared before Martinsburg’s Chief Magistrate to obtain an Order of Abatement to address the illegal drug activity on the property.  Both the property owner, Mr. Dwight Leaman of Willow Street, Pennsylvania; and his lessee who manages the property, Ms. Lelia Swanson of Martinsburg, were found to be in violation of the Drug House ordinance and have been sent written notification of the Chief Magistrate’s action.  Leaman and Swanson are scheduled to appear before the Municipal Court of the City of Martinsburg on November 21st to provide evidence that they have complied with the Chief Magistrate’s order.

    Also today, in a matter not directly related to the Drug House Ordinance violations, Martinsburg Building Code Official Chuck Clingan posted the building on 800 W. King Street as uninhabitable due to building code violations.  The property must be vacated in 24 hours and remain vacant until restored to code compliance.

    “800 West King Street had been a serious problem for a long, long time.  The drugs, disorder, and other criminal activity coming out of there was tearing down the whole neighborhood.  It just wasn’t going to be tolerated”, stated Chief Richards.  “This is a big success story and was a real team effort between the police, residents, elected officials, and our Planning Department.  We’ve been focused on cleaning up this problem for months and many MPD officers and others worked really hard on this.

    I want to especially recognize the efforts of Patrolman Chris Williamson, Corporal Justin Harper, Building Code Official Chuck Clingan, Councilmen Ken Collinson and Mark Baker, and the great neighbors on South Kentucky Avenue for getting the job done,” Richards added.

    Deputy Chief George Swartwood praised the most recent MPD success.  “This is a great example of what we can accomplish when the police, residents, and other city departments work together,” Swartwood stated.  “This is an entire team effort.  It’s showing results and we’re going to keep going with it,” the MPD Deputy Chief said.

    Since June of last year Martinsburg’s Drug House Ordinance has been successfully shutting down drug houses in neighborhoods across the city.  Under the provisions of the ordinance, property owners are subject to fines if they fail to take appropriate action to abate the problem after 30 days of notification.  The Order of Abatement announced today contains compliance stipulations including:  evicting problem tenants, other actions to prevent the recurrence of illegal drug activity, and mandating criminal background checks on future tenants to 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 Martinsburg Drug House Ordinance applies to owners of both rental and owner-occupied property.