CAMDEN – Camden Village Council member Toni Keesler has spearheaded an effort to “clean up Camden” with a nuisance ordinance targeted at repeat offenders and the houses which harbor them.
“Basically, what brought this about,” Keesler explained, “Was increased criminal activity within the village and repetitive police and emergency service calls to the same residences. I felt that this would be a help in alleviating this problem.”
The ordinance will be a nuisance ordinance, not a “property maintenance” ordinance, according to Keesler. It will give the Camden Police Department more options when dealing with these circumstances.
Before, looted property was found in a resident and the offender was arrested, only for the property owner to let the offender move back in when he or she got out of jail. According to Keesler, this ordinance will require a fine for whomever lets repeat offenders and known criminals stay with them repeatedly.
Keesler added, “This will hold the property owner — whether it is an owned home or a rental — the property owner will be responsible, if deemed a chronic nuisance – that means criminal activity – drugs, theft, weapons, illegal activities only.”
The police department will have to deem a case a chronic nuisance, which signifies officers have visited the residence multiple times. It takes three visits for the police to classify a residence a “chronic nuisance.”
“The whole point of this is to either have homeowners be held accountable, or if it is a rental, the landlord is accountable for who they are bringing into our communities,” Keesler said. “It is just a way to clean up criminal activity.”
This ordinance will apply to both commercial and residential buildings.
Keesler pointed out, the City of Eaton already has this type of ordinance; in fact, most cities have something like this in place.
“This is an attempt to clean up the village,” Keesler stressed.
The ordinance was reviewed by council during its meeting on Nov. 3. Keesler drafted it from a city template, and due to that, she had to change some of the terminology. The draft was approved during the meeting.
Next, the ordinance goes back to the village solicitor, who suggested most of the language changes council approved.
This piece of legislature is very important to Keesler, but she admits it is a hard job.
“I’m working,” she said. “But all these legal things do take time. If I did not keep pressing the issue, and bringing it back up, it would have been swept away, I feel. But now, the legal wording has been accepted, a clean copy will come back, the ordinance will be issued a number, and then we have to read it and approve it three times. It has to pass each and every time or it fails.”