NORMAN — When a residence became a hangout for persons suspected of criminal activity and drug use, neighbors worked with police and city code enforcement to fight back.
Neighbors on Cruce Street plagued by violence and other potentially criminal activity at a suspected drug house are finally getting some relief. After 70 police calls for service — 42 in 2012 — and 25 arrests at the same location, the Norman City Council agreed with police and city staff that enough is enough.
“This is a unique situation,” said Linda Price, Norman revitalization manager.
Last week, city council members used a nuisance ordinance allowing the city to deal with repeat offender residences for the first time. Though the ordinance had been on the books for a while, a social host ordinance solved most of the city’s problems with repeat offenders.
“We had success with the nuisance party ordinance,” Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said.
In many cases, repeat offenders have been fairly innocent party houses — often college students who have guests with loud music, late hours and numerous disturbance calls. The nuisance party ordinance allowed police to address those problems and compliance usually came quickly, preventing further problems.
Not so in the case of 1207 Cruce St., where the party ordinance didn’t stop repeated problems associated with numerous different people police said were at the residence.
Under the nuisance property ordinance invoked by the council in a unanimous vote last week, the water meter will be removed and the house declared unfit for human habitation for a period of six months.
City law allows a location to be deemed as nuisance property if, on three different dates within a year, citations at the place result in guilty or no contest pleas violating at least two different items of city code allowed for in the ordinance.
The property at 1207 Cruce exceeded those requirements, but Price said because owner Ann Feaver worked with the city, more time was given before the matter was brought forward. The problem was, Feaver was no longer in control of the property.
“We thought we had a partnership with the owner of the house,” Norman Police Chief Keith Humphrey said. “She said she’s afraid of her son. She’s been assaulted. She feels like she has no control. She doesn’t even live at the residence.”
Price and Humphrey told city council members that Feaver said her son and other occupants had taken possession of the house. Even after it was declared unfit for human habitation and closed, people continued to break in and use the property for what neighbors believe is often criminal activity.
“We’re at a point where we can’t arrest our way out of anything,” Humphrey said. “There’s a potential for these crimes to become more violent.”
Norman municipal court records document the citations charged against James Clayton Feaver including possession of drug paraphernalia, nuisance party and disturbing the peace on two dates in July and another in September. Also at the address, Jesse Beaty pleaded guilty to obstructing an officer in September.
On various dates, people at the residence were picked up on warrants — some from other counties.
Electrical wiring in the home is not safe, Price said and much of the flooring has been ripped up.
On different dates in December, people were arrested for warrants and domestic abuse. Police reports indicate a call Jan. 24, 2013, regarding a possible aggravated assault and battery that describes a victim as badly beaten and unconscious on the ground. On Jan. 25, a subject was arrested for outstanding warrants. In February, a person was arrested for trespassing.
Neighbors said they did not feel safe and that they would not let their children play unsupervised in their yards or ride bikes in the neighborhood.
Nearly all of the neighbors expressed concerns. Most met with police, city staff and Ward 2 Council member Tom Kovach about the problem recently.
“One couple couldn’t come that night, and they called me,” Kovach said. “Virtually the entire neighborhood is dealing with this. This neighborhood has been terrorized for the last couple of years.”
Neighbors are hopeful the action by the Norman City Council this week will restore their neighborhood to its former family friendly status.
Ann Feaver did not protest the declaration of the property as nuisance. City staff said that this will give her a chance to clean the property up and either move back into the place she called home for so many years or sell it.
“I will tell you this has been a joint partnership between code enforcement and the residents in this area,” Humphrey said. “When you have continued problems, there’s potential deterioration of the neighborhood.”