The number of heroin overdoses in the region continues to rise, but Middletown City Manager Doug Adkins believes ideas from the Heroin Summit are starting to reduce criminal activity in the city.
Last year, Middletown City Council passed the Chronic Nuisance Ordinance that states property owners who receive three nuisance activities or two drug-related charges at the same location are billed the cost of the public safety responses by the city.
He told those who attended the eighth Heroin Summit on Monday at Atrium Medical Center that 35 owners have received notifications they’re in violation of the ordinances. In two of those cases, the owners of a high crime Middletown home sold the property and the owners of a troubled hotel met with city and police officials to hear their concerns.
There will be additional success stories, Adkins said.
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Lt. Jim Cunningham from the Division of Police said officers have been called to a residence at 107 Kay Drive 12 times since August for various offenses, including drugs, theft, rape and drug overdoses. He said the landlord was renting the property to relatives.
Cunningham said police were “at a standstill” until the homeowner was informed she was liable from the cost of the police calls if they continued. That’s when she agreed to sell the home, Cunningham said.
“It was a major problem in the community,” Cunningham said of the property. “A whole community was in an uproar.”
Cunningham said neighbors eventually called police to say they were afraid of some of the criminal activity in the home.
Adkins said a few out-of-town property owners, after being notified of their violations, called the city to say they didn’t know criminal activity was taking place in their residences. He said at least two properties have been put back on the market and sold to a local homeowner.
Adkins said the owners of the Parkway Inn, 2425 N. Verity Pkwy., flew from New Jersey after being contacted by city officials. Police have been called to the Parkway Inn at least 10 times this year, most notably in April when officers and paramedics were called there on the report that a 5-year-old was not breathing. The boy, Alexander Stephens, died from injuries on April 29 at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Middletown police had more than 100 calls for service to the Parkway Inn in 2015, and 25 of those resulted in reports being made, according to police records obtained by the Journal-News. Those reports included a dead body, drug overdoses, missing persons, domestic disputes, drug deals, domestic violence, theft, burglary, vandalism, robbery, assault and intoxication.
No one from the Parkway Inn returned calls to the Journal-News seeking comment.
The owners are working with the city to resolve the criminal issues there, Adkins said.
“We have to take a hard look at it,” Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw has said. “It’s not fair to Middletown at large when you’re spending so much time at a few places.”
The purpose of the ordinance, Adkins said, is to identify the places, not the people, where police are called numerous times. This ordinance is designed to identify and take action against those 5 to 10 percent of the properties in the city that do not take action to curb ongoing nuisance activity.
Later, Adkins was asked if the city has encountered any concerns about possibly being sued by upset property owners. He said about eight other Ohio communities have similar ordinances and those potential legal problems were addressed before Middletown enacted its nuisance ordinance.
BY THE NUMBERS
62: Overdose deaths in Middletown this year
55: Overdose deaths in Middletown in 2015
221: Cases investigated by the Heroin Response Team
53: Number of people who agreed to seek drug treatment
413: Overdoses in Middletown this year
$20,000: Cost to bury indigent residents this year
$18,000: Cost to bury indigent residents in 2015
SOURCE: City and police records