Best Practices - Vol. IV

Mayor Paul Helmke

Drug House Ordinance

In 1993, neighborhood leaders and City officials in Fort Wayne had had enough: They were determined to find a way to close down the dozens of drug houses that plagued the City. Residents worked with elected officials, police officers and other City staff to develop a new law that would help solve the problem. In late 1993, the Fort Wayne City Council passed, and Mayor Paul Helmke signed into law, the Drug House Ordinance.

Here's how it works: Citizens report suspected illegal drug activity by calling the Drug House Ordinance "hotline" which is staffed full-time by a retired 23-year-veteran police officer. The information is kept confidential, compiled and then turned over to the Fort Wayne Police Department's Vice and Narcotics detectives. Detectives then attempt to make a drug buy at the suspected drug house or arrest someone on the property for possession.

Once an arrest is made, police notify the landlord that they are renting to someone suspected of conducting illegal activities on their property. The landlord must begin eviction proceedings within 30 days of receiving written notice from the Police Department. If the landlord does not comply, he or she may be fined up to $2,500 for each day the tenant is permitted to stay without receiving a formal eviction notice.

In conjunction with enforcement of the Drug House Ordinance, the Fort Wayne Police Department offers a Landlord Education/Awareness Program. This training program provides landlords with guidelines for maintaining properties and screening potential renters. The guidelines help landlords prevent drug dealers and other criminals from moving into their rental units. The Fort Wayne Police Department also provides landlords with a list of warning signs that signal the possibility of drug dealing on their property. The Education/Awareness Program has created a partnership between the Police Department and responsible landlords -- they work together to eliminate drug houses in Fort Wayne.

Efforts to enforce the Drug House Ordinance and educate landlords are paying off. During 1994, the Fort Wayne Police Department shut down 80 drug houses. One reopened after being closed but it was promptly shut down again. All others remained closed after the dealers operating them were either jailed or left town. Enforcement of the ordinance in 1995 resulted in the closure of 110 houses and the eviction of the residents occupying those houses. During 1996, 107 houses were closed and in 1997 the Fort Wayne Police Department is closing houses at a record pace.

The Drug House Ordinance is having a tremendous effect on the community. It is helping prevent decline in the City's neighborhoods, it is decreasing property damage often associated with drug and other criminal activity, and it is alleviating animosity between neighbors and landlords. Most importantly, the effective enforcement of the ordinance is giving neighborhood leaders and City officials what they were looking for -- a solution to the drug house problem.

Contact: Office of the Mayor, (219) 427-1111

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