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February 18, 2013

Norman trying to win back a neighborhood from crime

NORMAN — When a residence became a hangout for persons suspected of criminal activity and drug use, neighbors worked with police and city code enforcement to fight back.

Neighbors on Cruce Street plagued by violence and other potentially criminal activity at a suspected drug house are finally getting some relief. After 70 police calls for service — 42 in 2012 — and 25 arrests at the same location, the Norman City Council agreed with police and city staff that enough is enough.

“This is a unique situation,” said Linda Price, Norman revitalization manager.

Last week, city council members used a nuisance ordinance allowing the city to deal with repeat offender residences for the first time. Though the ordinance had been on the books for a while, a social host ordinance solved most of the city’s problems with repeat offenders.

“We had success with the nuisance party ordinance,” Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said.

In many cases, repeat offenders have been fairly innocent party houses — often college students who have guests with loud music, late hours and numerous disturbance calls. The nuisance party ordinance allowed police to address those problems and compliance usually came quickly, preventing further problems.

Not so in the case of 1207 Cruce St., where the party ordinance didn’t stop repeated problems associated with numerous different people police said were at the residence.

Under the nuisance property ordinance invoked by the council in a unanimous vote last week, the water meter will be removed and the house declared unfit for human habitation for a period of six months.

City law allows a location to be deemed as nuisance property if, on three different dates within a year, citations at the place result in guilty or no contest pleas violating at least two different items of city code allowed for in the ordinance.

The property at 1207 Cruce exceeded those requirements, but Price said because owner Ann Feaver worked with the city, more time was given before the matter was brought forward. The problem was, Feaver was no longer in control of the property.

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