Pierce County cracking down on drug dens

Jul 10, 2017, 2:35 PM | Updated: 2:45 pm
derelict properties...
(Pierce County Sheriff's Office)
(Pierce County Sheriff's Office)

Pierce County is getting creative to address one of its residents’ biggest complaints: derelict properties that turn into crime magnets.

Fly-by-night motels known for drug activity and prostitution might immediately come to mind, but that’s just one incarnation of the issue.

Archive: What can be done about squatters in Seattle

“You also have the residential house that has four bedrooms in it, but has 26 people living in it,” described Pierce County Sheriff’s Detective Ed Troyer. “They’re out doing different things from stealing to support heroin habits, or they’re doing drug deals right out of the houses.”

Law enforcement is typically the first agency to get involved, but Troyer said they don’t want to move on the situation too quickly. Often, the sheriff’s office will call in its undercover unit.

“Sometimes we stumble into these and there are big burglary rings and stolen property rings working,” Troyer said. “We don’t just want to make the nuisance property go away, we want to send the criminals to jail.”

Once the criminal aspect is addressed, code enforcement or the health department may get involved to address the property itself.

The Pierce County Council recently passed a new measure (Ordinance No. 2017-22s) to make delinquent properties the top priority of code enforcement. It also added funding to hire an additional enforcement officer.

In addition, the new ordinance requires the Planning and Public Works Department to create a new online portal for residents to see where delinquent properties are in the enforcement process. The creation of this portal is scheduled to be completed in November.

Once code enforcement and public health get involved with a nuisance property, that may be the end of it. But, that’s not always the case.

Troyer said if the property falls back into derelict status and again becomes home to criminal activity, it’s time to get the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office involved. Once they get the information, Prosecutor Mark Lindquist tries to take legal action within 90 days.

“Probably the most difficult step in this process is locating the owner,” Lindquist said. “Because, in many instances they’re an absentee owner.”

The first step is to give the owner an opportunity to make permanent changes to address the state of their property. To that end, the Pierce County Council is passing new regulations that spell out exactly what an abatement agreement will look like. It also gives the owner a timeline for action.

But, if the owner fails to address the derelict status, a second ordinance currently being finalized by the County Council (Ordinance No. 2017-29) spells out a graduated penalty system.

It requires the owners of problem properties to enter into an abatement agreement within 15 days and gives the county the ability to pursue receivership as a way to facilitate the cleanup effort.

Troyer and Lindquist say they are on track to shut down about 10 of these nuisance properties this year. They hope once the new ordinances are in effect, that number will go up.

Still, county resources are limited. They have several ways to prioritize properties.

“First question is: Are we hearing about this from the neighbors? What are the neighbors saying and how many of the neighbors are saying it?” Lindquist said.

Getting calls from multiple neighbors is a good indication of the problem because it assures them that it’s not a case of a feud between a couple of individuals.

Of course, criminal activity, especially involving violence, will also move properties to the top of the list.

Ron and Don

KIRO Newsradio Newsdesk

Ron and Don’s last show on KIRO Radio

Last night was Ron and Don’s last show on KIRO Radio.
4 years ago
Kelly Herzberg in her natural habitat. (Photo by Rachel Belle)...
Rachel Belle

In Seattle, a personal shopper and stylist who only shops at thrift stores

If you think you can't afford a personal stylist, head to the thrift store with Sweet Kelly Anne Styling's Kelly Herzberg who will pull hundreds of pieces for you to try on.
4 years ago
Viaduct waterfront...
Ron Upshaw

What do we do with the waterfront after the viaduct is gone?

After the viaduct is taken down, we'll be left with a choice: What do we do with one of the most beautiful waterfronts in the country?
4 years ago
Ron Upshaw

Shower Thoughts: Ichiro can give Mariners fans something to root for

Rumor has it that Ichiro might make a comeback next year, and I for one welcome it.
4 years ago
Border wall...
Ron Upshaw

Trying to figure out why people want Trump’s border wall

A little over 40 percent of Americans now support the idea of a border wall, but what is it about it that seems so attractive?
4 years ago
Dan McCartney, Pierce County Sheriff...
Don O'Neill

Why you could hear kids’ voices on Pierce County Sheriff radios Monday night

Sometimes, "gone but not forgotten" isn't always how slain officers are remembered. But in Pierce County, a special effort is being made to commemorate a fallen deputy.
4 years ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Pierce County cracking down on drug dens