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Monday, December 7, 2009

Proposed City Bill Could Put Nuisance Property Owners, Habitual 911 Misusers in the Slammer

Posted By on Mon, Dec 7, 2009 at 8:20 AM

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Under current Ordinance 67600, St. Louis City can shut down your stash house, den of prostitution or other shady locale by declaring it a "nuisance property." You'll get a notification, and if you don't clean up the monkey business, you could get fined, and your building could get condemned.

Next week, 20th Ward alderman Craig Schmid and eight of his colleagues will be trying to push through a revised ordinance with even sharper teeth: building owners who don't cooperate could start going to jail for up to three months.  

"Some people would rather pay the fine and not fix the problem," says Ninth Ward alderman Ken Ortmann, one of the bill's co-sponsors. He says the threat of jail-time, or perhaps spending only one day behind bars, could be enough for them to "start managing their property and screening their tenants."

Another of the proposed changes widens the definition of "nuisance" to confront another problem entirely: illegitimate calls to the police.
Along with gambling, prostitution and the drug trade, any house where someone is continually "making a false report of a violation of the law to any police officer" would constitute a "nuisance" under the new ordinance.

"The entire city has a problem" with people calling 911 for questionable reasons, says alderman Shane Cohn of the 25th Ward, another co-sponsor. Cohn fears that in cases where people truly do need to call police on a frequent basis, this part of the bill could make them reluctant to do so. But he adds that the City would still have discretion to deal with such situations accordingly.

Offering an example of a nuisance call, Schmid cites the woman in Savannah, Georgia who recently called 911 because her french fries were cold.

"It can seem funny, but if police are responding to a situation where minutes count and they should be somewhere else, it's not that funny," he said.

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