City of Columbus continues efforts to shut down bad business, drug houses

(WBNS)
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The sound of an electric saw filled the air in the 2500 block of Azelda Street in the Linden community where police and the city attorney's office boarded up the first drug house of 2019.

Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein said the home had a history of drug trafficking, two shootings and at least one overdose.

"No family, regardless of where you live in the city of Columbus, should ever have to deal with this. Ever," Klein said.

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The city attorney's office divides Columbus into five zones. An assistant city prosecutor is assigned to each zone to tackle the challenges facing that community.

10TV first highlighted the work of the zone prosecutors in 2014 when the city attorney's office, armed with court-ordered nuisance abatements, targeted hotels along the State Route 161 corridor in north Columbus. Police said the hotels were infested with drugs, violence and prostitution.

The city of Columbus ultimately passed an ordinance that now requires hotel and motel owners to apply for an annual operator's permit, which helps hold business owners accountable.

In recent years, prosecutors have focused their attention on shutting down drug houses plaguing neighborhoods. In the past two years, police and prosecutors shut down nearly 40 homes that were epicenters for drug trafficking.

In 2017, the city shut down two markets and carry outs. Last year, that number jumped to five. Klein said the numbers reflect the small percentage of landlords and business owners who choose to turn a blind eye to the city's warnings.

"They don't care," Klein said. "And we're going to make them care because we're shutting down their property."

Klein said in 2019, his team of prosecutors plan to put the pedal to the metal.

"That's really the message that we're sending, that we're not going to let up. We're keeping the foot on the gas because our neighborhoods deserve better," he said.

In 2018, the city attorney's office filed more than 400 nuisance abatements. In the vast majority of cases, landlords and business owners agreed to work with prosecutors and police to clean up their act.

Klein said the majority of cases began with a tip from a community member and urged neighbors with concerns to attend the next civic association meeting in their community or utilize the city's 311 service.