The Martinsburg Police Department announced today the initiation of two more cases under the city’s “Drug House” ordinance, bringing the total to 19 problem properties that have been cleaned up under the City’s drug-fighting tool. One of the latest actions was the result of a successful drug-selling investigation and search warrant conducted by the Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crime Task Force and one from response and follow-up by MPD patrol officers.

    Earlier today, Police Chief Maury Richards appeared before Martinsburg Chief Magistrate Ella Buckner to obtain Orders of Abatement to address illegal drug activity at 112 S. Water Street and 527 B West Addition Street. The owners of the properties found to be in violation of the Drug House ordinance are John Orem, owner of 112 S. Water Street and Steve Cunningham, owner of 527 W. Addition Street. The Drug House Ordinance was triggered after serious drug-related criminal violations were substantiated by the police at each property. This is the second Drug House Violation for Orem who just last August, was cited for a violation when MPD shut down a drug selling operation at another of his rental properties on North High Street.

    The latest Drug House Ordinance violation was triggered on December 6, 2017, when officers of the Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, assisted by MPD, executed a search warrant at Orem’s rental property at 112 S. Water Street. The residence had been identified as the site of a major drug-dealing operation for the selling of heroin and crack cocaine. Arrested was Arkavier Floyd, an invitee of Mr. Orem’s tenants. Floyd was found to be in possession of 57 grams of crack cocaine, 4 grams of heroin, and a small quantity of marijuana packaged for sale. The total estimated street value of the illegal drugs was more than $6,700. Floyd, a convicted felon with an extensive criminal history that includes prior drug distribution convictions, has been charged with Possession with the Intent to Distribute Crack Cocaine, Heroin, and Marijuana.

    The 112 S. Water Street residence is part of a duplex with 114 S. Water Street, another Orem owned property. MPD confirmed that since August of this year, the police have responded to repeated calls for service at 114 S. Water Street including disturbances, domestic arguments, domestic violence and batteries with knives, and a malicious wounding with a knife. There have also been two reported heroin overdoses since October at that location. Police believe that the heroin sold to the people who overdosed at 114 S. Water Street came from the drug-dealing operation next door at 112 S. Water Street.

    The Drug House Ordinance violation at 527 B West Addition Street resulted from MPD officers documenting two misdemeanor drug violations since last April. On April 4, 2017 Krista Barthlow was cited for possession of heroin on the property and on September 29, 2017, Jonathan Shirley was cited for illegal possession of Suboxone while on the property. Both offenders were invitees of Mr. Cunningham’s tenant. Records show that since last February, police and Fire Department Medics have responded to four drug-related medical assist and heroin overdose calls at the 527 B West Addition Street rental property.

    Martinsburg Chief Maury Richards and Deputy Chief George Swartwood praised the work of both Task Force members and his MPD officers in obtaining the evidence and arrest that have closed down the latest two drug houses. “When it comes to drug enforcement, the Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crime Task Force and the officers of the Martinsburg Police Department are second to none. We’re fighting a war and we’re going to win. Drug dealers and drug houses have no place in Martinsburg,” the MPD Chief announced. Deputy Chief Swartwood stated that, “If you’re selling this poison in our town, we’re locking you up. If you have a drug house in our town, we’re shutting you down.”

    Richards is angry because some landlords are still ignoring illegal drug and other criminal activity occurring on their properties. “When your property is so out of control, how can you not be aware of it? Here we have are two rental properties with repeated calls of disturbances, violence, criminal activity, and six heroin overdoses between them with no proactive response by the owners to fix the problems. We need landlords to step up and be accountable. I’ll be asking both of them to explain themselves in court,” the Martinsburg Chief added.

    Hearing dates in for the most recent Drug House Ordinance violations have been set for John Orem and Steve Cunningham in Martinsburg Municipal Court. Notifications have been sent to both defendants that they are scheduled to appear before Municipal Judge Dale Buck on January 24, 2018.

    MPD has successfully shut down 19 drug houses with Martinsburg’s innovative ordinance. Under the provisions of the Drug House Ordinance, property owners are subject to fines if they fail to take appropriate action to abate the problem after 30 days of notification. Orders of Abatement contain 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. Huntington, Parkersburg, and Clarksburg, West Virginia have enacted similar drug house ordinances based on Martinsburg’s to help fight the heroin problem.