- Targeting trouble spots Council moves to rein in public nuisances By Raquel Rutledge/The Colorado Springs Gazette Edited by Mike Braham; headline by LeighMessage 1 of 1 , Jul 4, 2000View Source
Targeting trouble spotsColorado Springs police are one step closer to seizing homes, bars, motels and any other property where repeated crimes are committed and owners are ignoring the problems.
Council moves to rein in public nuisances
By Raquel Rutledge/The Colorado Springs Gazette
Edited by Mike Braham; headline by Leigh Shallenberger
The Springs City Council passed a public-nuisance ordinance Tuesday - the first of its kind in the Springs - aimed at places where drug deals, prostitution, drive-by shootings and other crimes frequently require police attention.
Property managers, real estate agents, attorneys and others objected to the proposal, calling it vague, unconstitutional and unfair. They say they can't be liable for the actions of others and worry police will overuse the law.
All eight council members present supported the ordinance, which moves to a routine final reading in two weeks before it becomes effective. Lionel Rivera was absent.
Police say problem sites waste officers' time and taxpayers' money and they need the new law to protect neighborhoods. ....
The chief promised the ordinance would be used only against property owners who are not doing anything to alleviate the problem. As long as owners are taking "reasonable" steps toward fixing the problem - even if they are unsuccessful in their attempts - they would not be prosecuted, he said. And, property seizures would occur only with approval from a judge.
Seizure would last a minimum of three months. To reopen, the owner would have to prove no violation took place or that a remedy to the problem is in place.
While the city controls the property, the owner would remain responsible for the mortgage, maintenance and other costs. If after one year the owner is not eligible to regain the property, the city could sell it.
Property owners worry the ordinance might be overused by police because any place with two or more occurrences of illegal activity can be considered a public nuisance under the law.
"This could apply to any liquor establishment, any club, even the Broadmoor," said Paul Murphy of the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors.
And it can apply to home owners, a fact that concerns Nancy Ryan, president of Jubilee Real Estate Services and manager of about 35 homes.
"What in the world is the general public supposed to do to stop drive-by shootings?" Ryan asked the council. "Surely you're not expecting us to sit on our front porches with AK-47s and shoot every car that approaches because they might be one."
Council members said a citizens' advisory committee can keep an eye on how the ordinance is being used and said that they will review its use in one year.
Councilwoman Judy Noyes called the law a benefit "to the welfare of the community as a whole."
Now what would happen here if a citizen, instead of calling 911, took the law into their own hands and acted in fear of losing their home because they believed there was a possible commission of a crime taking place in the area, and in that fear, acted irrationally?Would such citizen be put on trial? And would not their defense be, "The city made me do it!" And would not other citizens in fear of losing their properties sitting on the jury be inclined to believe such defense? And would not acquitted persons not possibly turn around and sue the city for false prosecution?I think someone is going to cry uncle here, and I believe it will be the ones who passed this tyrannical law. Keep an eye on this one, folks. It's possibly going to create vigilantism! Then the police won't have to worry about being overworked, as they can just be laid off. Oh, yes, and let's not forget, these kind folks just might remember in November. -Ron BransonJ.A.I.L. (Judicial Accountability Initiative Law)
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