A Portsmouth City Councilman says law enforcement should be allowed to seize houses where it is obvious that the property is a haven for drug activity.
Fifth Ward Councilman Gene Meadows said new legislation being considered could hamper law enforcement in their abilities to seize drug-related property.
“Quite frankly we need to have a program that if somebody is selling drugs out of a rented house, we take that house,” Meadows said.
Portsmouth City Council was going through the routine of accepting two Justice Assistance Grants (JAG), one for in-car cameras and the other for the Drug Task Force, when a discussion began.
“Do we still have a program where, if there’s any kind of a drug bust and we seize property,” Portsmouth Mayor Jim Kalb asked.
Portsmouth City Manager Derek K. Allen said such a situation does exist but a state statute has overturned the city’s ability to retain such property. He said a federal law is under consideration that would prohibit police from confiscating cars and other property.
‘They’re working on some type of statute,” Allen said. “I think what they’re trying to do is protect the so-called innocent third parties, and they’re going about it the wrong way, because there is already provisions in there that you can protect innocent third parties, but it sometimes involves them having to hire a lawyer and to pursue legal actions, basically file a lawsuit against them if you are an innocent third party.”
Fifth Ward Councilman Gene Meadows was speaking from his experience as an attorney when he said he has handled such situations.
“Our county (Scioto) will pretty much back off easily when they realize that,” Meadows said. “I don’t know about other counties, but they’re trying to make some kind of long way around to prevent that problem, and in the long run I think they’re going to harm our abilities to be able to seize properties that are outright drug-funded properties. Quite frankly we need to have a program that if somebody is selling drugs out of a rented house, we take that house from the landlord.”
Portsmouth Mayor Jim Kalb agreed and said after warning the owner of the property that drug activity is going on, action should be taken to confiscate the property.
“We need to be able to take the property or smash it, make an empty lot,” Meadows said. “Once we get enough empty lots we can put a factory up.”
First Ward Councilman Kevin W. Johnson looked at it from the other side of the coin.
“Some of the outrageous that certain agencies have done have just been beyond the pale,” Johnson said. “I agree we haven’t had that here locally, but some of the stories that I have read from across the country, I just can’t imagine being in that position and then have to get an attorney and sue for my rights.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.