MPD “Operation Spring Cleaning” Shuts Down West Martin Street Drug House

  • MPD “Operation Spring Cleaning” Shuts Down West Martin Street Drug House

    MPD “Operation Spring Cleaning” Shuts Down West Martin Street Drug House

    The Martinsburg Police Department announced today the initiation of another case under the city’s “Drug House Ordinance” for the rental property at 208 W. Martin Street following an intensive drug investigation, search warrant, and arrest for Heroin Distribution from the residence.  The latest success is part of “Operation Spring Cleaning”, MPD’s on-going, aggressive, street-level drug enforcement initiative. Chief Maury Richards has appeared before Martinsburg Chief Magistrate Ella Buckner to obtain an Order of Abatement to address the illegal drug activity.

    The owner of the rental property has been identified as Chris Baker who has contracted with the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness to place tenants in his rental unit.  Baker and the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness have been named as co-defendants in the latest drug house case.  Police records reveal that there have been seven calls-for-service at this location during the past 12 months.  The repeated police calls have included complaints for illegal drug activity, criminal investigations, a domestic disturbance, and two drug overdoses.

    This is the third Drug House Ordinance violation for a property owned by Chris Baker, who has been previously cited for violations at 504 W. Race Street and 214 W. Martin Street, two doors down from the latest drug house.  Last July, his 214 W. Martin Street building was the center of another heroin distribution operation which was dismantled after an investigation, search warrant, and arrests by the Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crime Task Force.  Two Baltimore drug dealers were charged with Distribution of Heroin and other drugs.  The tenant of 214 W. Martin Street, who had allowed the drug dealers access to her apartment, had also been placed by the same housing organization.  Including the two West Martin Street rental units and recently at 321 W. Race Street, this is the third known property identified as a Drug House Ordinance violation with tenants placed by the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness.

    The latest successful drug investigation was spearheaded by MPD’s Detective Unit after they developed information of heroin being sold at 208 W. Martin Street, by the tenant, Joseph Jay, 55.  After establishing that Jay was selling illegal drugs, Detective Sergeant Adam Albaugh obtained a search warrant for the residence.  Sergeant Albaugh, Detective Corporal Jared Luciano, Detective Jon Smith, other MPD officers, and Task Force members executed the warrant on June 12, 2019.  Inside the residence, officers found Joseph Jay who was placed in custody by Albaugh.  Jay, who has an extensive criminal history, was charged with Delivery of Heroin.

    Deputy Chief George Swartwood praised MPD’s latest drug-fighting efforts, “This is another example of excellent police work by our Detective and Patrol Units, working together to solve a serious problem.  Detective Sergeant Albaugh, Corporal Luciano, Detective Smith, and all our Patrol officers did an outstanding job,” Swartwood stated.  “MPD has shut down dozens of Drug Houses all over Martinsburg.  Every part of our City is important to us.  Drug dealing and drug dealers won’t be tolerated in any neighborhood,” the Deputy Chief said.

    Chief Richards stated, “Repeated Drug House violations like these are red flags that tell us we have a serious problem which needs to be fixed.  We support the efforts of federal programs that assist homeless people to obtain decent housing but something is wrong here.  It just doesn’t seem like the placements and activity in these rental units are being monitored very effectively.”  The MPD Chief added that, “We’re talking about a lot of federal money here.  I don’t think it’s too much for hardworking taxpayers to expect that the people who are placed in these apartments conduct themselves responsibly, don’t engage in drug dealing or other criminal activity, and behave like good neighbors—because drug dealers aren’t good neighbors.”

    Richards will be calling a meeting with the police, Chris Baker, the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, and City representatives to get to the root of the problem.  “It is my goal that when we go to court, we will be able to present a comprehensive plan that will prevent these serious violations from continuing.  It’s all about teamwork and I look forward to Mr. Baker and the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness joining our team,” Chief Richards said.

    Baker and the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness are scheduled to appear before Municipal Judge Dale Buck on August 21, 2019 to provide evidence that they have complied with the Chief Magistrate’s order to clean up the drug problem on their property.

    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 2016, MPD has utilized the ordinance to shut down 47 drug houses.  Repeat calls-for-service at these locations have been reduced by 90%.