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February 4, 2013

Salem ordinance targets trouble houses

(Continued)

The ordinance gives police more authority to go after owners who ignore repeated notifications following numerous incidents. Under the ordinance, fines start at $200 for a first offense and go to $300 for a third.

Last year, police notified about 30 property owners that their buildings were in danger of being classified as disorderly houses. They also issued 11 citations, which included fines of about $2,500, and took out four criminal complaints.

The biggest impact of the ordinance is not the fines and penalties, police say, but the deterrence.

“A majority of the time after they hear from us the first time, the problem is rectified,” said Sgt. Harry Rocheville, who heads the Community Impact Unit. “We have had landlords evict folks just because they don’t want the aggravation.”

A couple of landlords have even approached the police to ask how to handle problem tenants, Rocheville said.

“I would say 99 percent (of the notifications) result in a positive interaction with landlords, and the issue is addressed,” said King.

Rocheville said the credit for the successful enforcement should go to patrol officers, who respond to the calls and follow-up with tenants and landlords. He also credited other city departments, including health and building, with a coordinated enforcement effort on problem properties.

Even 53 Lawrence St., which had been the police’s No. 1 problem, appears to have turned around. For starters, it has new tenants.

“We haven’t been there since Dec. 1,” said King.

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.

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