I just can’t stop writing about Massena, or more specifically about how the village is trying to deal with what appears to be a burgeoning drug crime problem.
A couple weeks ago I wrote about the village’s planned acquisition of an unmarked Humvee for crimefighting and prevention purposes. Many commenters on this blog were wary of such efforts. Today, WWNY-TV is reporting a quieter sort of effort to fight crime in Massena (although, some might argue, one of which people may be equally wary): Village Mayor Jim Hidy is putting the idea forward that Massena should have a public nuisance law, “giving landlords a mechanism to evict problem tenants or alleged drug dealers.” Hidy told WWNY that the village would have the power to take control of properties in which more than two “infractions” had occurred:
If there’s more than two infractions – two or more infractions – that we have to respond to at one of these residences, whether they’re residences that are rented units or are owned by individuals, this law will empower the community to take those properties and hold the owners accountable.
Under the law, people who rent under false pretenses (as well as property owners) could be held accountable for recurring problems.
Village police chief Timmy Currier is also involved in the drafting of the law, and says his main goals are to drive drug dealers (who are thought to be using local rental properties as sites for drug activity) out of the community; and to develop intelligence on those who remain, so they can build court cases and get convictions against them.
Now, this law’s still in the process of being drafted (village officials will be meeting with their attorney on Friday to work on it) so we can’t say for sure exactly what’s going to be in it. But here’s why I said before that people might be wary of such a law: If not written and enforced carefully, categories like “problem tenant” and “alleged drug dealer” are both vague and fuzzy. If someone’s an alleged drug dealer, does that mean they can be evicted from their home without a conviction? Will this law enable landlords to evict tenants they simply don’t care for, or hold landlords responsible for activities they can’t be reasonably expected to control?
I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for the law when that language does become available, and will pass it along to you.