- Jun 21
MPD Shuts Down 28th Drug House—Third Orem Property Cited Under Ordinance
The Martinsburg Police Department announced today the initiation of another case under the city’s “Drug House Ordinance” for the rental property at 507 South Raleigh Street. After a search warrant conducted by MPD officers on Tuesday night, the residence was discovered to be the location of a major illegal drug operation distributing large quantities of methamphetamine.
Police Chief Maury Richards appeared today before Martinsburg Chief Magistrate Ella Buckner to obtain an Order of Abatement to address the illegal drug activity documented at the location. The owner of the Raleigh Street property has been identified as John Orem and found to be in violation of the Drug House Ordinance. The Drug House Ordinance violation is the third for Orem, who has been previously cited for drug houses on two of his properties on North High and South Water Streets. The drug-selling operation discovered on Tuesday was located in the duplex building immediately adjacent to Mr. Orem’s bail bond business office located at 501 S. Raleigh Street. In addition to recovering illegal drugs, officers seized suspect drug money, recovered several firearms, and made three felony drug arrests.
The June 19th MPD search warrant and drug bust originated with a follow-up investigation by Corporal Justin Harper and Patrolman Scott Shelton regarding a stolen shotgun and handgun reported earlier in the day to Corporal Matthew Gilmore of the West Virginia State Police. A confidential tip from a concerned citizen led police to the 507 S. Raleigh location where during their theft investigation officers observed obvious signs of illegal drug activity. Officers Chris Williamson, Danny North, and Ryan Fritz assisted and while the location was secured, Corporal Harper obtained a search warrant. During the search, officers recovered 31 grams of methamphetamine, 33.6 grams of marijuana, and a digital scale and packaging material used for weighing and bagging the drugs for distribution and sale. The estimated street value of the drugs totaled $9,600. MPD officers also seized $1,584 in suspect drug money and recovered three firearms including the stolen shotgun and pistol. The stolen weapons were transferred to WVSP Corporal Gilmore as part of his on-going criminal investigation. Arrested and charged with Possession with Intent to Deliver Methamphetamine and Marijuana and stolen property-related charges were the tenant, Corey Nipper, 32; and his co-residents Tekira Wimberly, 24; and Richard Rhodes, 50.
Commenting upon the recent MPD enforcement action, Chief Richards praised the efforts of his officers but voiced his frustration with John Orem’s repeated drug house violations. “The proactive investigation and teamwork by Officers Harper, Shelton, Williamson, North, and Fritz in shutting down another drug house was simply outstanding,“ Richards stated, “but I’m sick and tired of this landlord’s irresponsible behavior.” “John Orem is the first landlord we’ve had with three Drug House strikes against him and this last one was operating right under his nose, 20 feet from his office. It’s outrageous,” announced the Martinsburg Chief.
“We’ve said from day-one that we need owners to step up and stay on top of what’s going on in their rental properties and most are working with us to solve problems. Their cooperation has been great and the results have been very positive,” Richards stated. “But unfortunately, we still have a small number of property owners who aren’t stepping up to their obligations. It’s pretty clear that we have some landlords who either don’t get it or just don’t care. Well, that’s not fair either to our community or to our responsible landlords. That attitude just won’t cut it anymore,” Richards declared. The MPD Chief added that, “We’ve had good success but there are cities in the United States with drug house ordinances that have a lot more teeth than ours. I think it might be time to start looking at tougher penalties for landlords who continue to deliberately turn a blind eye to their responsibilities to our community.”
Orem is scheduled to appear before Municipal Judge Dale Buck on July 25, 2018 to provide evidence that he has complied with the Chief Magistrate’s order to clean up the drug problem on his property and prevent it from recurring in the future. Written notification has been sent to the landlord.
The Raleigh Street rental property is the 28th Drug House shut down by MPD under the city’s innovative drug fighting tool. Calls-for-service records show that since the date of final disposition of the previous 27 Drug Ordinance cases, there have been zero complaints of drug-selling activity at any of these locations. Total calls-for-service at those locations were reduced by more than 90%.
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 drug problem. 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.