NILES — Niles officials have changed the language in an ordinance for abating criminal-activity nuisance properties.
Before the change was made at a city council meeting last week, the ordinance had specifications — and differences for — multifamily dwellings, such as apartment complexes.
“We were getting calls for certain multiunit complexes, for the same apartments or units,” Law Director Phil Zuzulo said. “Because of the way the (old) ordinance defines multiunit places and the number of calls before we can start abating criminal activity, we would essentially need dozens and dozens of calls before we can abate that activity. It constricted our way to police uniformly and effectively.”
The new language states after four calls for nuisance activities, the fifth can lead to that property being deemed a nuisance, and criminal abatement can take place. According to the new ordinance, the nuisances must take place in a 12-month span.
“The notice shall further state that the city may abate the nuisance by responding to the activities using administrative and law enforcement actions, and the costs of such abatement will be assessed on the nuisance property,” the ordinance states. “Nuisance activity occurrences will be recorded to the individual units and not the entire multiunit property.”
Prior to the change, premises with two or three residential units required six nuisance activity calls, premises with four to 19 residential units required 14 nuisance activity calls, premises with 20 to 39 residential units required 18 nuisance calls and premises with more than 40 residential units required 28 nuisance activity calls before any legal action could be taken against landlords.
Niles police Capt. John Marshall said this will help keep landlords responsible.
“The number (the ordinance) required to trigger an abatement was significantly higher. The change allows for the landlord to be held responsible faster,” Marshall said. “Minimizing the number of violations puts the pressure on the landlord to make sure their tenants aren’t causing nuisances.”
Zuzolo said he believes the new language will allow for more uniform and effective policing.
“We decided for uniformity’s sake that every unit be considered a single family dwelling,” he said. “It will allow us to more efficiently abate criminal activity.”
The criminal activity outlined in the ordinance includes felony offenses; drug-abuse violations; any animal violations; disorderly conduct violations; gambling violations; health, safety or sanitation violations; sex offenses; and possession of criminal tools, weapons, explosives, firearm or handgun violations, among several others.
From a police standpoint, Marshall said the new ordinance also may cut down on the number of calls in specific areas.
“We’ll still be responding to the calls regardless,” Marshall said. “In the long run, after it has a chance to show its effectiveness, it may minimize the calls in certain areas. It could alleviate the call load in certain areas and, in the short-long term, cut the calls we get to specific complexes.”
“I would think this will have landlords vet their tenants better. In no way are we trying to keep renters out, it’s just about abating criminal activity,” Zuzolo said.