MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Police Chief Maury Richards defends his department’s enforcement of the measure known as the Drug House and Gang Ordinance. His officers recently shutdown a 24th drug house in Martinsburg using the unique ordinance.
“Here’s the bottom line,” Richards during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline” last week. “The decent families of Martinsburg have a right to live on a block without a drug house. We’re not going to tolerate that.”
Richards and his officers have demonstrated their lack of tolerance for drug activity. The ordinance enables officers to enter a home once they have documented it is being used for the sale of drugs and to issue an “abatement order.” The order requires immediate eviction of those living at the property. The ordinance will also enable a landlord to perform a background check on all future tenants.
The ordinance took effect last fall and is starting to become effective, particularly with those in the city’s housing industry.
“We’ve been getting a lot more proactive calls from property owners saying, ‘Hey I think I’ve got a problem can you look into it for me?” said Richards. “‘I’ve been there and seen a lot of out-of-state license plates and strangers, can you investigate?’ Absolutely.”
Although it’s only one layer of the city’s battle against a drug epidemic which is tearing at the fabric of West Virginia and the nation, Richards stands behind the ordinance as a useful and effective tool to eliminate drug dealers in the neighborhoods of his city.
“What we’re expecting in our ordinance is that the owners of these properties have some accountability,” he said.