Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Streicher answers Council questions on chronic nuisance properties

Specific questions about Cincinnati Municipal Code Chapter 761, more commonly known as the "chronic nuisance ordinance", were answered by Cincinnati Police Chief Thomas Streicher in a recent memo to City Council.

The memo, requested in a Council motion written by Councilmember Charlie Winburn and adopted on April 7, provides further information on why there has been a disparity in the number of chronic nuisance premises among the City's five police districts, how these premises are identified, what criteria trigger stepped-up enforcement, when chronic nuisances are considered abated, and the number of premises abated since the ordinance was passed in 2006.

The request was due largely to several challenges to the ordinance, the most prominent of which is a lawsuit filed against the City in 2007 by the Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Apartment Association and Real Estate Investors Association of Greater Cincinnati claiming that the law passes the responsibilities of both the police department and criminals off to third-party property owners.

That lawsuit remains unresolved and is awaiting mediation.

Proposed changes to Chapter 761 by the City's Law Department were indefinitely postponed last November.

Nuisances 'self-select'

Under Chapter 761, owners of multi-family properties can be billed and held liable for excessive police calls to their properties. Violation of the law is a fourth-degree misdemeanor, with additional offenses classified as third- and second-degree misdemeanors.

Fifteen specific acts are named as "nuisance activities" under the ordinance, including assault, menacing, inducing panic, disrupting public services, curfew violation, truancy, disorderly conduct, discharging a firearm, drug sales or use, prostitution, gambling, use of illegal fireworks, loud noise, vicious dogs, and kidnapping.

According to Streicher, the chronic nuisance process "self-selects" based upon the number of calls for service dispatched to a certain property and nuisance activities observed by officers through investigation or arrest.

"At any given time, some police districts may have more identified locations than others, depending on the nuisance activities occurring at specific locations within the district," Streicher said.

The Cincinnati Police Department tracks all of this activity through its Computer Aided Dispatch system.

"They [chronic nuisance premises] are not selected by the Police Department," Streicher said.


When a property is flagged for a high number of nuisance-related police runs, the district commander will notify the property owner, in writing, that his premises is in danger of violating the ordinance.

If the property owner fails to take corrective action, the police chief or his designee may cite the owner. The department cannot file criminal charges against the owner without prior review and approval by the City Prosecutor's Office.

"These citations are based upon the number of previous bills received by the property owner," Streicher said. "A premises owner may appeal the determination that it's a chronic nuisance; or the amount of bills related to nuisance activities at the premises."

A chronic nuisance premises is considered "abated" when the police department determines that there has been an adequate reduction in the number of identified nuisance activities at the address.

Streicher said that calls for infractions that would qualify under Chapter 761 dropped from 16,432 to 14,678 from 2008 to 2009. Eight of the top 15 chronic nuisance premises identified in 2008 were no longer identified as such the following year.

"In these specific examples, calls for service for chronic nuisance activities dropped an average of 71 percent from the previous year," he said.

Previous reading on BC:
Chronic nuisance ordinance to be reviewed...again (4/13/10)
Westwood wants problem property abated, redeveloped (2/11/09)
City will not add SFD to chronic nuisance ordinance (11/26/07)