In the past month we have worked with two different property owners in getting rid of drug dealers from their property. These residents were dealing heroin and methamphetamine from their property and in other locations throughout the Fox Valley.
Drugs are an irritant and a challenging problem in our community. Through active community involvement this problem can be addressed. But, citizens must be willing to act and take responsibility for protecting their neighborhoods.
The key is education and knowing what to look for, being a good witness, and protecting yourself. Education slows frustration by understanding what law enforcement may and may not do as actions cannot be taken on suspicion alone. If so, drug houses would immediately be shut down – at the sacrifice of personal freedoms. The same Constitution protecting law-abiding citizens also protects suspected criminals -all citizens are free from unlawful searches and seizures of their person, vehicles, and homes.
Law enforcement gencies across Wisconsin are progressive and aggressively seeks to rid neighborhoods of crime. Sound legal cases are built to stand in court through the collection of tangible, credible evidence. When this process fails, criminals go free and return to your neighborhoods and scoff at the system they beat.
Patience and vigilance is needed.
So how can we do that? Well, Wisconsin has a statute – 823.113 to be specific – that will deem a property a public nuisance if it is used facilitate the delivery, distribution or manufacture, as defined in s. 961.01 (6), (9) and (13) respectively, of a controlled substance, as defined in s. 961.01 (4), or a controlled substance analog, as defined in s. 961.01 (4m), and any building or structure where those acts take place.
My community adopted this particular statute into our nuisance ordinance which falls in line with the chronic nuisance program initiated here back in 2008. Under that ordinance and state statute, a municipality may hold the owner accountable for any future violations after being notified of the drug nuisance. With a rental property, Wisconsin Statute 704.117 allows a property owner or landlord to issue a 5 day no cure to the tenant. If the tenant does not vacate the property owner/landlord can proceed with an eviction in court.
Documentation is the key to building cases against drug houses. Don’t assume the police already know, or that a neighbor will call. Don’t assume one report is all that is needed, if the activity keeps on occurring, keep on reporting it. All neighbors affected by the drug activity are encouraged to report. Drug deals tend to be completed quickly and are often over before an officer can arrive, however don’t let that deter you from reporting what you saw.
So what are we looking for?
- Date and time of activity
- Description of activity
- Description of vehicles involved (color, type, license plate)
- Description of people
Your reports are very important whether you wish to get involved in the process of getting rid of a drug house or not. The more intelligence that we have on this activity, the better prepared we are in decision making and tactics to address the problem.