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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - "Indy increasingly turns to nuisance law to force crime-ridden apartments, hotels and even Wal-Mart to clean up their act"

Jeff Swiatek and Justin L. Mack of the Indianapolis Star report. A few quotes from the long story:

When businesses become insufferable crime magnets, Marion County officials charged with keeping the peace bring out their big gun.

The nuisance lawsuit.

More than 18 times over the past five years, nuisance lawsuits have been the weapon of choice against the worst of the worst problem properties in Marion County.

A public nuisance declaration may sound like something proclaimed from the pulpits by 18th century puritans. But it seems to be increasingly working as a crime-fighting tool in these YouTube times.

The Beech Grove Wal-Mart, site of a now-infamous videotaped fight in June between two women and a young boy, is a case in point. * * *

News reports show the city's legal department, at the behest of code enforcement and police, has filed nuisance lawsuits since 2011 against at least eight apartment complexes, nine hotels and a handful of bars and rental-home landlords

The problem properties typically had racked up hundreds of police runs each over a year or two. They tended to be rife with prostitution, drug-dealing and violent crime. And management seemed unable to get control.

A nuisance lawsuit "garners the attention of lackadaisical property owners. They serve as a wakeup call," said city prosecutor Mark Pizur. "The city has really increased the use of public nuisance lawsuits the last several years. It has become clear it is a viable and successful way to assist public safety." * * *

Property owners hit by a nuisance complaint aren't exactly fans.

To be deemed a public nuisance can be a reputation-killer for a commercial business.

A Wal-Mart spokesman makes a point of noting that Beech Grove's demand letter to reduce crime reports at the Beech Grove store never uses the term "public nuisance." (Even though Beech Grove's action was done under its nuisance ordinance.)

Businesses also don't like that a nuisance complaint can be painfully expensive. It often requires hiring an attorney to fight the city in court battles that can drag on for months.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 29, 2015 09:57 AM
Posted to Indiana Government