November 20, 2012Two University City council members introduced a bill on Nov. 13 to amend the city's nuisance law and set penalties for owners of problem properties.
Council members Byron Price and Arthur Sharpe, Jr. introduced the bill. The proposed changes are aimed at problem locations known for illegal drug usage and sales, or places with a history of crime or ordinance violations.
The change, if approved, would define the owner of a property as the person named on the property deed — as recorded with the St. Louis County Recorder of Deeds office — and on the last tax bill maintained at the St. Louis County Assessor's Office.
It would also define a nuisance as: "A continuing or recurring act or physical condition which is made, permitted, or allowed by any owner on any premises or public property which is injurious or detrimental to the health, safety, welfare, or convenience of the inhabitants of University City, or any act or condition so designated by statute or ordinance."
It also states that a criminal nuisance would exist "when one or more incidents, acts, or physical conditions of premises are unabated by an owner" after notice from the city has been given.
The provision covers the sale, manufacture, possession, storing, distribution, or use of narcotics or other controlled substances or paraphernalia and precursors, as well as acts of prostitution and illegal gambling, at premises.
If passed, the law would require that an owner receive notification that a criminal nuisance exists, and that if the condition reoccurs within a 12 month period criminal prosecution could result.
Penalties range from ordering the owner to implement reasonable measures to prevent recurrence of criminal activity to evicting tenants from the premises — closing and boarding up the premises for a period not to exceed one year.
Citizen Task Force
In a somewhat related issue, Clayton Mayor Shelley Welsch asked the council to put a discussion on hold regarding a Citizen Task Force on Crime Prevention and Awareness until the council's Nov. 26 meeting. Councilman J. Michael Glickert was absent from the meeting and Welsch said he wanted to be present for the discussion.
Even though the matter was held until the next meeting, Councilman Byron Price said he saw no need for a task force since the chief of police had already given the council a summary report that contained crime statistics for the last few years.
Price said the summary report also included suggestions and crime prevention tips such as adding security systems, hiring security guards, implementing a tip hotline and bolstering Neighborhood Watch programs.
He also mentioned that a police focus group has been active in the city for years.
"To me, you don't need to create something new when there is already something occurring. We just need to get more people involved. We have to let more people know about the police focus group and where they can go and get help," Price said.