- May 01
Martinsburg Drug House Ordinance Reduces Service Calls by 91%
The Martinsburg Police Department announced today the stunning results and positive impact of the City’s innovative Drug House Ordinance. First invoked in August, 2016, the ordinance has been utilized 24 times with significant results both in drug enforcement and cleaning up city neighborhoods. Police calls-for-service at the problem “drug house” locations have been reduced by a staggering 91%.
Chief Maury Richards, in announcing the unprecedented results stated, “The success of the Drug House Ordinance is huge and being felt all across Martinsburg. As we promised, MPD is using this tool to lock up drug dealers, improve the quality of life for decent families in our neighborhoods, and maximize police resources.”
MPD calls-for-service records show that since the date of final disposition of the 24 Drug Ordinance cases, there have been zero complaints of drug-selling activity at any of these locations. Total calls-for-service have also been significantly reduced. During the one-year period prior to utilizing the ordinance at the 24 drug house locations, there was a total of 191 reported police calls-for-service. After invoking the ordinance, the total number of calls at these locations has been reduced to 17, with most of them non-criminal in nature. Many of the two dozen locations were also the source of on-going problems with repeat calls. Almost half of the original 191 calls involved just four residences. 30 of the service calls were at 446 Faulkner Avenue, 26 calls at 800 W. King Street, 19 calls at 235 Porter Avenue, and 17 calls at 527 B Addition Street. After invoking the ordinance, the 92 calls-for-service at these four locations were reduced to only two—one being a report of a street disturbance and the other from the landlord requesting the tow of an abandoned vehicle.
Corporal Justin Harper has obtained four search warrants that have been instrumental in invoking the Drug House Ordinance. Harper, who was recognized as one of MPD’s Officers of the Year in 2017, is very enthusiastic about the new drug-fighting tool. “The Drug House Ordinance has been a complete game-changer,” Corporal Harper stated. “I was a little dubious at first because I had never heard about it before, but it has exceeded all my expectations,” he added. Harper noted that, “We used to respond to some of these drug houses maybe four times per shift. That was frustrating. It feels good to know when you’ve done something to solve a problem. Now we have more time to move on and solve the next one.”
Cleaning up the 24 drug house locations has usually started with an in-depth police investigation and aggressive follow-up enforcement action. This police work has resulted in 39 arrests and the recovery of 306 grams of heroin, 209 grams of crack cocaine, 840 grams of powder cocaine, and 6 grams of fentanyl. The estimated street value of the illegal drugs totals $260,530. Drug house-related police seizures have also included $13,988 in suspect drug money and six illegal firearms. Police operations have been a team effort with 12 drug search warrants being obtained and executed—seven by the Martinsburg Police Department and five by the Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crime Task Force.
Deputy Chief George Swartwood stated the Drug House Ordinance “Has been a highly effective tool in our arsenal to combat illicit drug sales and trafficking in our community. It is part of a partnership with police that is empowering residents, property owners, and property managers to improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods one block at a time.” Swartwood added that, “The proof of its success is the virtual elimination of return calls for police service for drugs to these residences. This allows the police to concentrate on other areas in Martinsburg needing our services.”
Chief Richards also recognized the good-faith and cooperation of Martinsburg landlords in making the Drug House Ordinance so successful. “Nearly all of the landlords have been willing to work with us,” said Richards. “What we don’t want is a revolving door where one drug dealer is kicked out and a new one just takes his place. That’s not happening because we’re seeing landlords do a better job screening tenants and monitoring the activity on their properties. This is a team effort and we want responsible property owners on our team,” stated the Martinsburg Chief.