MPD Kicks Off New Year By Shutting Down Three More Drug Houses

  • MPD Kicks Off New Year By Shutting Down Three More Drug Houses

    MPD Kicks Off New Year By Shutting Down Three More Drug Houses

    The Martinsburg Police Department started the New Year by announcing the shutting down of three more drug houses under the City’s innovative “Drug House Ordinance.” Police Chief Maury Richards appeared before Martinsburg Chief Magistrate Ella Buckner to obtain Orders of Abatement to address the illegal drug activity documented at the rental properties located at 123 S. High Street, 222 Surrey Court, and 618 Virginia Avenue.

    Alex Hershaft of Bethesda, Maryland is the owner of 123 S. High Street property which is managed by Jason Baker of Martinsburg. The owner of 222 Surrey Court has been identified as Maan Said Amer of Martinsburg. The owner of 618 Virginia is Harry C. Van Metre, Jr., also of Martinsburg. All have been notified that they are to appear before Municipal Judge Dale Buck on February 20, 2019 to document compliance with the Chief Magistrate’s order to clean up the drug problem on their properties and prevent it from recurring in the future. The City Planning Department has confirmed that the property at 222 Surrey Court has not been registered or inspected as a rental unit and that 123 S. High Street remains out of compliance with outstanding rental repairs. The Planning Department will take appropriate action to bring both properties into full compliance with the City Code.

    As part of an on-going investigation into illegal drug-distribution and selling, 123 S. High Street-Apartment #1, was the target of a federal search warrant on January 4, 2019. Members of the Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force along with MPD’s Special Response Team (SRT) executed the warrant and recovered 7 grams of crack cocaine and $1,514 in suspect drug-money. Allen Craig, 56, one of the apartment’s tenants, was arrested and charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Crack Cocaine.

    The drug enforcement action on High Street came directly on the heels of an earlier federal search warrant also conducted by the Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force and Martinsburg’s SRT on January 3, 2019. The Task Force and MPD hit the drug house at 222 Surrey Court recovering 2 grams of heroin, scales and bags used in the distribution of narcotics, and $535 in suspect drug-money. Taken into custody was Jessica Sue Nicholson, 22, a resident of the building. Nicholson was charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Heroin.

    While conducting an investigation for a criminal fugitive on December 14, 2018, MPD Detective Sergeant Adam Albaugh observed a woman leaving the house at 618 Virginia Avenue, carrying a suspicious package. The woman got into a car and drove away. Sergeant Albaugh immediately notified MPD’s Canine Unit and Patrolman Ryan Fritz quickly made an investigatory stop of the vehicle. Officer Fritz detected the odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle and deployed Canine Atlas who alerted to drugs inside the car. Fritz recovered the package the woman had carried from the house and discovered that it contained 680 grams of marijuana with an Estimated Street Value of $3000. The subject, one of the building’s residents, was identified as Jessica Monique Dancey, 27. Dancey was placed under arrest and charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana.

    Chief Richards praised the latest drug enforcement success. “This is another example of the world-class police work that is making Martinsburg a safer and better place to live. The great teamwork between our Task Force, Special Response Team, Detectives, Canine Unit, Patrol officers, and community members really came together. The results speak for themselves—three more drug dealers have been locked up and three more drug houses have been shut down,” Richards stated. Deputy Chief George Swartwood also complimented the work of the Task Force and the excellent partnership with MPD. “The effectiveness of the Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force is second to none. The level of cooperation with our Department and positive results are simply outstanding,” Swartwood said.

    As part of the Martinsburg Police Department’s community-policing strategy, the Drug House Ordinance is a powerful drug-fighting tool. Since its adoption in April, 2016, MPD has utilized the ordinance to shut down 41 drug houses. Repeat calls-for-service at these locations have been reduced by 90%.

    Huntington, Parkersburg, Clarksburg, and Fairmont, 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. The Martinsburg Drug House Ordinance applies to owners of both rental and owner-occupied property.