Metropolitan King County Council
516 Third Ave., Rm. 1200
Seattle, WA 98104
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July 28, 2008
Greater cooperation, safer neighborhoods: Council adopts Dunn Drug House Legislation
Sheriff may now notify landlords of criminal activity on their propertiesLandlords and property owners will now play a greater role in combating crime on properties in unincorporated King County, under landmark legislation unanimously adopted today by the Metropolitan King County Council. The “Safer Neighborhoods Ordinance” brings landlords and tenants together with the King County Sheriff’s Office for the first time to combat drugs and violent crimes in the unincorporated areas. The ordinance is endorsed by King County Sheriff Sue Rahr and the Rental Housing Association of Puget Sound.
“In a perfect world owners would always know about crime taking place on their property, but that isn’t always the case,” said Reagan Dunn, prime sponsor of the ordinance. “This legislation will go a long way towards strengthening cooperation between property owners, tenants, and the County to ensure safer neighborhoods for law-abiding citizens.”
The legislation stems from a case just outside Renton last year in unincorporated King County where residents, Tom and Florence Pruitt, took action to help shut down a meth house in their neighborhood after observing more than a year of criminal activity. Sheriff's deputies responded to numerous incidents at that rental property over a 13-month period, but neighbors were unable to convince the landlord to evict tenants suspected of using and dealing meth. According to the Sheriff’s Office, deputies visited the property 37 times during this time, with neighbors taking down license plate numbers from more than 242 cars that visited the property. With the help of the information gathered by neighbors, Sheriff’s detectives later made drug arrests and confiscated guns from the property. When the proposal was introduced, Florence Pruitt remarked, “the drug dealers moved across the street from the wrong grandma.”
“The Pruitts and their neighbors had to live with a drug house in their neighborhood for far too long,” said Dunn. “This law will send a message to drug dealers and violent criminals that they can’t just move into a rural area and expect to flout the law. We will not let them terrorize our citizens in their own neighborhoods and homes.”
Under the approved ordinance, the Sheriff’s Office would identify “problem houses” in unincorporated King County and notify the landlord when a serious crime is committed on the property, including most Class A and B felonies as well as drug and sex offenses and the furnishing of alcohol to minors.
After three separate notifications of crime on rented property in a six-month period, owners would be required to take reasonable action to prevent the recurrence of such crime or face fines themselves. Such action could include asking the Sheriff’s Office for assistance or advice on how to prevent crime, participation in a landlord training course, or beginning the process of eviction. Dunn’s legislation directs the Sheriff’s Office to provide assistance to landlords who take action.
“Community policing emphasizes partnerships between the police and anyone who has a stake in quality of life issues and safe neighborhoods,” added King County Sheriff Sue Rahr. “Councilmember Dunn’s legislation is a perfect way for the owners of rental property and the Sheriff’s Office to work together for the betterment of both tenants and owners.”
“We’re pleased to have participated in the development of the ‘Safer Neighborhoods Ordinance,’ said Julie Johnson, President of the Rental Housing Association of Puget Sound. “Open collaboration and communication between the Sheriff’s Department, tenants and rental housing owners is essential if we are to be successful in protecting our communities and properties from crime. Partnerships like this are an invaluable ingredient. We all have a stake in the successful implementation of this ordinance and rental housing owners are eager to do our part to make this legislation a success.”
“We are confident that the Sheriff will effectively use this new tool to compliment her community policing efforts,” said Dunn. “We will continue to look for new and innovative ways to go after drug dealers as long as they operate in King County.”
Before his election to the County Council, Dunn was an Assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecuted what was at the time the largest meth bust in Washington state history. He has been a member of the Law, Justice & Human Services Committee during his entire tenure on the Council.