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The Times
  • Little Falls police chief introduces nuisance abatement ordinance

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  • Little Falls Police Chief Michael Masi has called on the city’s Common Council to approve a nuisance abatement ordinance that will allow the city to shut down rental properties where crimes repeatedly occur.
    Under the ordinance, the police chief can give notice and opportunity for a hearing to the owner, lessor, lessee, agent and all persons in possession or having charge of the premises where the public nuisance is being conducted, maintained or permitted.
    After receiving notice, the property owner will have 30 days to eliminate the nuisance.
    If the nuisance is not eliminated, the ordinance provides the City Court judge the ability to issue an order to discontinue the nuisance activity at the premises or an order to close the premises to the extent necessary to abate the nuisance, according to the proposal.
    “This law is meant to deal with those properties where the police department responds to repeated drug, alcohol and party complaints, and where the landlord does not take action to rectify the situation,” said Masi during a telephone interview Friday afternoon.
    He added the repeated nuisances interfere with the interests of the public in the quality of life and total community environment, commerce in the city, property values and the public health, safety and welfare of residents. Masi also said while existing laws may be adequate to punish offensive conduct and bring violators into compliance, the laws are not adequate to abate the nuisances created by multiple offenders.
    “The ordinance promotes equality, fairness and due process when dealing with these types of issues because it is not the chief of police or the police department that imposes sanctions or penalties on a landlord for allowing this type of behavior and conduct to occur at their property, it’s the court that makes the decision to close the property until the situation has been rectified,” he said during the telephone interview.
    “When I say the property is closed that does not mean the city will take possession, ownership or control of the property, because it won’t. If a property is closed the landlord will still be responsible for paying their bills, loans, mortgage. The difference being they will not have the income from their rental property to pay those bills,” Masi added.
    In addition to sending notice to the owner, lessor, lessee and agent of the premises where the criminal activity is occurring, Masi said tenants who share the building with the person or persons causing the nuisance will also receive notices.
    “The thought being they can influence their fellow tenants to cease and desist with their activity because if the property is closed not only is the person involved in the criminal activity that will be evicted, but everyone who lives in the building is evicted,” he said.
    Page 2 of 2 - The ordinance, which is currently in its draft state, defines a nuisance offense as repeated assault, sex, burglary, arson, larceny, robbery, gambling, prostitution, obscenity and firearms offenses. It also lists repeated violations of the city’s Social Host Law, repeated violations of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law and repeated offenses involving marijuana and controlled substances as nuisance offenses.
    “The ordinance puts the authority to deal with these type of repeated offenses in the hands of the police department because it’s the police department that is dealing with the calls and the people who are violating the law,” said Masi. “It is easier for the police department to handle these matters than the codes office because all of the data needed to present to the court is in the possession of the police department.”
    Masi introduced the law to the Common Council earlier this month.

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