Businesses that cause problems in neighborhoods could be shut down a little more easily under a proposed change to the state’s nuisance law.
Columbus resident Kenneth Gilbert is the president of his neighborhood association. He says an after-hours club in his neighborhood was dangerous and caused problems for residents.
“There were murders, there were drugs, there was prostitution, and we were told by the Popeyes there that they had to lock their doors because people were shooting up in the restrooms,” Gilbert says.
His group worked with the Columbus City Attorney’s office to try to shut the Club LaRue down by declaring it a nuisance, but he says it wasn’t easy.
“What got them stopped was one single underage buy of alcohol according to our police officers,” he says. “You could have ten murders and only one drink of alcohol and it’s the alcohol problem that causes the property to be deemed a nuisance.”
Columbus police found it difficult to control crime in Gilbert’s neighborhood when the club was open. And Officer Scott Clinger says it’s not just this one club that is causing problems.
“We’ve had places for years that have remained open and continued to have violence over and over and over, shootings and that kind of thing,” Clinger says.
A bill that’s been introduced in the Ohio legislature would change the definition of “nuisance” to include the occurrence of violent offenses. Democratic State Representative David Leland, one of the bill’s sponsors, says he and the Republican co-sponsor of this legislation, Representative Stephanie Kunze, have worked with community groups, police organizations, cities, judges and others who have interest in the bill to come up with a way to close nuisance businesses faster.
“We’re not trying to do ‘gotcha’ on anybody,” says Leland. “We don’t want to catch people who are just bad luck. We want to make sure we go after the bad actors... that are putting the communities in distress and that make people fear for their lives. And so if we can shut down those facilities and it makes people’s lives better, that’s the whole goal.”
The bill is in a House committee at this point. But since it has bipartisan backing, Leland hopes it will make it through the legislative process and become law in the coming months.