Enforcing Nuisance Code is Police Work

I have stopped complaining to the police about private violations of our nuisance code. It is a dangerous business that is not the job of any private citizen.

A case in point comes to us from Copely, Ohio, reported by AP in the Daily Courier on August 9th, “Authorities still ponder reason for Ohio killings.” A man killed seven people, starting with shooting his girlfriend and his elderly neighbors, before walking around the neighborhood shooting people until police shot him. His girlfriend survived. It appears that a dispute started when his neighbors asked him to clean up his yard.

Our City Manager and police don’t believe that highly trained and highly paid police officers should be enforcing nuisance codes, but this kind of situation is exactly what police are trained and paid to do. If police had told the man to clean up his yard, he may well have thought twice before going after them; at least he would be going after armed men.

There is no easy way to tell a person to clean up his yard, but it is possible to do it safely if you know the person and are friends with him. If not, you are risking your life. After the neighbor asked this man to clean up his yard, his housemate probably agreed, which likely so enraged him that he went ballistic.

This is an extreme case, but only a bit more extreme than the treatment I got from two neighbors after your CSO told them who complained about their yards. When one goes to a property that is being neglected, one never knows who is on the other side of that door, or how offended he might be at a polite request to clean up his property.

Police are trained to handle such risky situations, and they should always make first contact with a nuisance code violator. After they have assessed the situation and delivered a warning, then a Community Service Officer may safely follow up to see that the warning is heeded, and to cite the offender if it is not.

Since our City Manager and police do not believe that enforcing our code is a job for police, they are not likely to change their minds unless this Council says otherwise. Please tell City management to use police to do the risky business that they are paid for, and make those first contacts with nuisance code violators. Since enforcement by complaint does not work, they will have to actually read the code and enforce against violations on sight.

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