On Sticks of Fire Tommy posted about the Connie Burton story. Blunted commented on the posting stating that he had some issues about the law in this case and that essentially he does not believe in these guilt by association laws. Fair enough.
The law in this case was a federal one strikes law that if you live in a housing authority project and a guest of yours or someone in your household was arrested for drug sales, then you could be evicted from your home in the project.
This law came about because many people in the projects were using drugs and selling drugs or people were coming into the projects and selling drugs and too many people were turning blind eyes to what their household members or guests were doing. These blind eyes were making life miserable for the other residents who did not use drugs and who wanted a safe place for their family to live in. As noted in the US District Court decision regarding Connie Burton's appeal:
"In the late 1980's the drug epidemic had become corrosive in many aspects of
our society. Public housing areas suffered along with many other segments of our
society during the drug war. In 1988, in response to the deteriorating safety
and overall quality of life due to drug-related crime and violence in public
housing, Congress granted to local public housing authorities (“PHAs”) a “new
tool” in striking a balance between providing affordable low income housing
which was also safe to live in. Id. 42 U.S.C. § 1437d(l)(6) was this tool,
and it mandated that every lease entered into by a PHA include a provision
permitting termination of tenancy when “a public housing tenant, any member of
the tenant's household, or any guest or other person under the tenant's control”
engaged in “drug-related criminal activity on or near public housing
We had something of a similar nature in our neighborhood. One of the homes was the headquarters for the drug trade. Drugs would be sold on the property and in the road front of the house. People would use the house as a base of operations and ride bikes in the surrounding streets circling around looking for people wanting to buy their drugs. These same people were part of the drug market crowd on 15th Street. These drug dealers along with the prostitutes made the neighborhood a lot nastier place to live.
The owner of the property, refused to do anything about it. Neighbors repeatedly advised her that her grandchildren were selling drugs. She was not at the home a lot because she was working three jobs to support those same grandchildren, or so she has said. She was advised to kick out those grandchildren and to trespass their friend. She refused, stating that they were her kin. She was actually witnessed abetting one known drug dealer in his efforts to avoid police.
Various neighbors and the neighborhood watch made call after call to the police. Many neighbors offered the use of their houses are watching posts. Some people confronted the drug dealers. However despite the arrests, the drug dealing continued. Neighbors then asked the police to begin public nuisance actions against the grandmother
In the public nuisance request to police in March 2004 it was noted:
“This home is a focal point for drug dealing in the area. Drug dealing occurs on the property and also the home is used as base of operations while drug dealers conduct drug dealing on foot and on bicycle in the immediate vicinity and on the streets surrounding the home. Drug dealing has been observed at that location for a minimum of 3 years, if not much longer. There have been 71 "calls for service" at that location since 12/14/2000 with 47 of those calls for services since June 2003. In addition, numerous calls or face-to-face contact reporting the criminal activity has been made directly to QUAD, Firehouse COPS and police administration. In the past year there have been multiple drug arrests at that location.”However, because the appropriate public nuisance laws were not being utilized by the city, a meeting needed to be held with the city attorney’s office.
“….. at the meeting held two weeks ago with Assistant City Attorney Gina Grimes,Before public nuisance actions could be taken, in one bust, the grandmother was arrested along with two of her grandchildren. The arrests were for misdemeanor drug and drug paraphernalia possession. I suspect that the grandmother did not actually have the drugs in her possession but that since they were found in her house and she was in the house at the time, she was considered to be in control of the drugs. As it turns out the State Attorney dropped the charges. That was okay because the point was made because, lo and behold the drug dealing stopped. Finally once the owner of the property was essentially held responsible for the actions of those on her property, things changed.
Municipal Prosecutor David Shobe, Major Jane Castor, George McNamara, and several Old and SE Seminole Heights Neighborhood Watch members it was agreed
that public nuisance actions can now be taken in these types of cases by the Police and the City under Florida Statutes 893.138. Furthermore it was agreed there could be possible criminal action under the F.S. 823.10."
So I can understand the laws used against Connie Burton.
Is the law fair? In the long run, probably. For those who want to live in a drug free housing project. For those who do not want their children to grow up and become drug dealers. for those who do not want to deal with the violence asssociated with drug dealers. Again from the District court decision:
"Similar to the factual situation in Rucker, Ms. Burton's son engaged in drug-related criminal activity outside of her apartment. As Judge Sneed points out, it is not likely that the tenant or the wrongdoer will admit to the fact that the tenant was aware of the drug-related criminal activity, especially since tenants and household members are often immediate family members. Hence, the only reliable source would be other residents. However, Congress concluded that other residents were equally unlikely to present the necessary testimony. “Tenants are frightened. They are scared for themselves and their children. They are afraid to report drug incidents to the PHA management and to the police because usually nothing is done by either agency.” The Drug Problem and Public Housing: Hearings Before the House Select Comm. on Narcotics Abuse and Control, H.R.Rep. No. 101-1019, at 66 (1989) (summary of testimony of Nancy Brown, Chairperson, State of Connecticut Task Force on Public Housing and Drugs); “The fear of retaliation makes it almost impossible to provide normal police protection.” H.R.Rep. No. 101-1019, at 69 (summary of testimony of Vincent Lane, Chairman, Chicago Housing Authority)."
There are too many people who turn a blind eye to criminal activity and thus allow it to continue and that needs to stop.