Problematic Behavior or Activity
Prolific sales of methamphetamine and heroin were occurring at one local residence, prompting many neighbors to complain to the Keizer Police Department. Complaints were about activities such as heavy vehicle and foot traffic and other disturbances. Neighbors reported that the negative activity was creating an intolerable environment for them. This was not an unusual complaint; however, while investigating the complaints, the department discovered that drug sales at the residence had been occurring for 20 years and traditional means of resolution had been ineffective.
Impact on the Community
Livability around the residence was severely diminished because of the ongoing activity. One resident sold his house and moved because of the drug sales and other related issues.
The Keizer Police Community Response Unit completed a narcotics investigation on the residence; as a result, a search warrant was served and subjects were subsequently arrested. The main person allegedly selling drugs was living in the home, which was owned by her mother; the woman refused to stop selling drugs, even after her arrest.
Less than a year later, based on additional complaints by neighbors and a second investigation, another search warrant was served. Again, the main subject was arrested, as were others.
In an attempt to permanently resolve the problems, the Keizer Police Department and the City of Keizer initiated forfeiture procedures on the residence; the city and the police department then prepared an irrevocable trespass letter and presented it to the owner of the home. In the letter, the owner states that the person arrested for selling drugs (which happens to be the owner’s daughter) does not have permission to be on the property, and the agreement directs the Keizer Police Department to enforce the criminal trespass statute against that individual. In exchange for such statements, the City of Keizer agreed to drop all forfeiture proceedings on the residence. The letter solved the problem after other approaches had failed. Unlike previous efforts, this intervention had the effect of permanently resolving the issue at this home. The person who was dealing drugs may not enter or remain on the premises or she will be arrested for trespass.
Based on Research
Keizer Police Department is not aware of a similar resolution for a prolific drug house. The intent was not to seize the house, but to permanently resolve the issues that were affecting the neighborhood’s quality of life.
Drug sales are no longer occurring at the residence and the situation has been resolved.
Critical Success Factors
When dealing with drug houses, creativity is highly recommended. In this case, the forfeiture process was selected as a means of opening the dialogue between law enforcement and the homeowner. To permanently resolve the related issues, the city’s attorney worked with the police department to draft the trespass letter.
Although drug houses beget volumes of complaints and measurably diminish livability in neighboring areas, the typical criminal justice process (arrest and sentencing) may not resolve the issue, so repeat offenders are common. In this case, the department initially served a search warrant and arrested the dealer only to have her return to the home almost immediately and resume drug sales. With similar cases in the future, the police department will try to work with legal staff—and/or other applicable resources and identified partners— to develop a plan that coordinates a resolution of these problems.