A new ordinance could help Juneau Police Department crack down on property owners that frequently draw complaints, but Assembly members expressed concern a “chronic nuisance” ordinance may deter people from calling the police.
The ordinance was discussed but was not referred to the Assembly after Lt. Jeremy Weske gave a presentation about the ordinance during Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting.
Under the proposed ordinance, a residential property owner would receive a chronic nuisance warning if they were subject to seven complaints that JPD has “probable cause” to suspect the complaint is valid. For commercial property owners, the complaint limit is 15.
Things that would count toward the complaint count include nuisance, littering, burning, selling tobacco to underage people and some criminal complaints.
False information, false alarm, child abuse, sexual assault, medical emergency and retail theft would not qualify.
After eight or 16 complaints, the property owner could then be required to take corrective action or else face a $400 fine for subsequent complaints. The fine could be collected in “any lawful” way Weske said, which could include liens.
“I want to be clear that a victim of a crime is not a chronic nuisance,” said Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski. “I know it says domestic violence doesn’t count, but there’s a lot of other actions associated with domestic violence … and what I’m concerned about with this ordinance is I don’t want to deter crime victims from reporting a crime. If their housing is in danger because their boyfriend or friend is a violent person, they’re going to say, ‘Ah, I can’t call.’’”
She asked if Weske had talked to other communities with similar ordinances about whether it worked as intended.
Weske said he reached out to five communities and had heard back from law enforcement officers and an attorney from three of the municipalities under the condition of anonymity.
“Overwhelmingly so, they considered it successful,” Weske said. “Not because they’re having to take people to the point of fining them, but because the idea, the threat for lack of a better term, of being fined is forcing, motivating, causing owners to take care of their property.”
He said that’s how police officers hope the ordinance would work in Juneau, too.
“That’s the way we want it to go,” Weske said.
If the ordinance goes into effect, Weske said calls would not be retroactively counted and everyone’s count would be at zero.
Assembly members also expressed concerns about how actions by one family member or person living in a residence could potentially lead to the displacement of other people signed to a lease or negatively impact other residents.
City Attorney Robert Palmer suggested he and Weske could attempt to shape the ordinance to take Assembly members’ concerns into account and bring the ordinance back to the committee.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.