Syracuse Common Council revises disorderly houses ordinance

Jan 14, 2014

Syracuse lawmakers have made it easier for police to get involved with problem properties. Common Councilors agreed to revise the old disorderly houses ordinance into a modern day tool for police.

Common councilor Khalid Bey says he’s heard frustration from constituents who don’t see action when they complain about problem properties.

“I had a constituent who had an ongoing problem with a gambling house," Bey said. "Six months of complaints with no real recourse. Now police have an adequate tool to deal with such a compliant.”

He says often drug houses and gambling houses create problems in neighborhoods.

“Being a person who’s heard the bullets, the shots fired even outside my window, it’s not a comfortable thing for anybody," Bey said. "So anything we can do to reduce and or eliminate those types of activities we have to do it. And I think this is one step in that direction.”

The 19th century ordinance once targeted houses of ill repute, but now it’s been retrofitted to allow police to deal with properties that may host gambling, drugs or noisy parties. Until now, police haven’t been able to act through the Nuisance Abatement Law, because it required three arrests at a property.

Councilor Khalid Bey, who proposed the legislation, says this lowers the bar by requiring only three calls and one arrest in connection with a suspected nuisance property.

“This legislation allows for police to contact the property owner, whether it’s owner occupied, or whether it’s a landlord, they’ll receive a letter from the chief of police and they’ll be required to show up to a meeting with them to come up with corrective action to deal with the problem," Bey said. "So that is in one sense, due process, it allows them to correct the source without an immediate penalty.”

If property owners don’t show up or don’t make corrections, then the case would move to the courts where a fine could be levied. Bey says this move responds to neighbors frustrated about the inability of police to legally deal with nuisance properties.