City looks to give police teeth in fight against crime

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ALAMOSA — City Council passed the first reading of ordinance 27-2021 unanimously, which seeks to hold property owners responsible who allow criminal activity to be conducted on their property.

Earlier this year, the Alamosa City Council authorized the creation of a drug investigator position within the Alamosa Police Department. To say the position has resulted in an increase in arrests related to illegal drug activity is an understatement. As Alamosa’s Chief of Police Ken Anderson shared with members of city council in Wednesday night’s meeting, more than thirty drug busts leading to arrests have been conducted in just eight months. That number of arrests in such a short period of time in a town the size of Alamosa provides a sobering yet accurate snapshot of the size and scope of illegal drug activity APD is dealing with on a regular basis in the city.

The Alamosa Police Department is now proposing to diversity their approach to the problem and solicit the help of the community, willingly or not, in addressing crimes that are taking place. In consultation with the City Manager and the City Attorney, a proposal has been crafted to add a new Article VI to Chapter 14 (Nuisances) of the Code of Ordinances of the city of Alamosa “concerning mitigation of public nuisances created by the use of property in connection with certain crimes and allowing for the closure of such property.”

Strip away the legal, burdensome, difficult to understand language and this is what the proposal – broadly referred to as “Ordinance No. 27 – 2021” - proposes to do and why.

Criminal activity is a public nuisance that has a negative impact on the health, safety and welfare of a community. That criminal activity is taking place on property throughout the city. Whether it is in an apartment or a house or a garage or an outbuilding of some type, criminal activities are being carried out on property that is owned by someone and – not always but often - rented to someone else, in this case a someone else who is doing illegal things.

The purpose of Article VI is to “encourage property owners to be vigilant in preventing criminal activity in or on their property.” In other words, to make property owners responsible for how their property is being used by renters, guests and occupants with the ultimate goal of deterring criminal activity on private property within the city limits.

If passed, the article would give the Chief of Police the legal authority to address with property owners the criminal activity taking place on their property through a straightforward process that requires local law enforcement to have verifiable proof of what activity is taking place, to inform the property owner of the activity, to allow sufficient time for the property owner to address the situation through means such as eviction but also, in the absence of any action being taken by the property owners, to involve the municipal courts in potentially shutting down the use of the property, including collection of any revenue related to that property (like rent) for a period up to one year.

The first reading passed unanimously and a public hearing on the matter was set for Dec. 15. To read the ordinance visit https://alamosa.novusagenda.com/Agendapublic/MeetingView.aspx?MeetingID=412&MinutesMeetingID=415&doctype=Agenda

Look for a deeper dive on this topic in the Valley Courier next week.

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