Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala today announced the successful creation of a Nuisance Property Task Force designed to send a clear message to landlords and tenants that illegal activity will not be tolerated in City neighborhoods. The task force, formed last year in March of 2010, is comprised of representatives of the City Law Department, the District Attorney’s Office, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police (PBP), and the Bureau of Building Inspection (BBI).
Task force members meet monthly to gather up-to-date intelligence on the City’s most egregious problem properties and utilize all available laws to swiftly abate those properties. As a result, the City and DA have partnered to evict tenants at 33 drug nuisance properties, cleaned up the former Reed Roberts housing site in the Hill District, and are improving the safety in the Allegheny Commons housing complex, located in the North Side.
“This successful collaboration is the result of significant coordination between the City and District Attorney and has ultimately led to effective, expeditious, and positive results,” Ravenstahl said. “One nuisance property at a time, we are working together to make our neighborhoods safer and cleaner.”
Added District Attorney Zappala, “People deserve to live in areas where their safety and quality of life is not compromised by the activities of other residents and businesses. By using existing laws and the courts, this partnership has the ability to make these areas more attractive and ultimately more vibrant.”
Currently, the task force actively monitors 60 City nuisance properties that are identified based on information such as recent police reports indicating illegal activity, 311 complaints, and BBI and Fire Bureau citations. The task force recommends legal action to be taken and the District Attorney’s Office utilizes the City’s intelligence and applies all available laws pertaining to nuisance properties, namely the Expedited Eviction of Drug Traffickers Drug Nuisance Law.
“These laws have never been utilized in this format before,” said Public Safety Director Michael Huss. “The City and DA have created a unique and successful partnership to address nuisance properties and effectively eliminate nuisance properties in the City.”
When a property is eligible for prosecution under the Expedited Eviction of Drug Traffickers law based on illegal drug activity occurring at the premise, the City and DA notify the landlord that they have 10 days to initiate eviction proceedings under that law. The 33 evictions that have taken place to date have occurred in more than a dozen different City neighborhoods. Nearly half of those properties’ landlords are from outside of the City and all have been cooperative.
The tenants of 3033 Bergman Street, located in the Sheraden neighborhood near Langley High School, were evicted last October after more than a half-dozen drug related arrests took place within less than a two-year period. In addition, several neighbors anonymously reported drug activity to 311 and police.
City Council Public Safety Chair and West End Representative Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith commented, “Bergman Street is a very pleasant street in the district, but it was this one property that was frustrating residents. I am very pleased District 2 is directly benefiting from this aggressive initiative. It is this type of collaboration residents want in their government and the collaborative effort is good for our entire City."
In addition to the expedited evictions, the task force is focused on cleaning up two larger problem properties – the Reed Roberts site in the Hill District, and Allegheny Commons in the North Side.
Last December, the City and DA partnered to “blitz” the Reed Roberts housing complex, located in the Hill District. Police officials ranked the property as one of the most crime-ridden complexes in the City. The complex’s 30 units were found to be in deplorable conditions and BBI inspectors cited the property owner for both building and electrical violations, including inoperative fire doors and emergency lighting and a serious trash and overgrowth problem through the property grounds. Since then, the City and DA have worked with the property owner who has agreed to an aggressive clean up approach that included: evicting tenants with narcotics violations; closing and demolishing one part of the housing complex; and relocating law-abiding residents to a new townhouse style, low-income housing plan located at Dinwiddie Street in the lower-Hill District.
The property owner plans to move Reed Roberts residents to Dinwiddie Street this spring. Phase II of that complex is now underway and includes a community center and the installation of security cameras.
The task force identified Allegheny Commons as an utmost problem property. Between June and November of 2010, there were 37 incidents, including drug offenses, simple assault, harassment, armed robbery, theft, burglary, criminal mischief, hit and run, and aggravated assault. The City and DA are currently working with the property owner who has agreed to several safety measures to improve the property, including the installation of cameras and a security plan.
Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith has called a City Council cablecast post-agenda on the Nuisance Property Task Force for 10 a.m., Tuesday, March 17th, in order to update the public on the task force’s success.
Click here to view Targeted Problem Properties and Tenants Evicted (17mb PDF file)