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Richmond police ready to evict tenants caught with drugs in homes

RICHMOND, Ind. -- Police have noticed an alarming trend in a battle with a growing drug problem. Leaders with the Richmond Police Department said the majority of their drug-related runs take them to rental properties in town. Now they have a plan to curb the problem.

According to Lt. Donnie Benedict, the department made 19 runs related to drugs or overdoses during the first 12 days of April. Three of them occurred outside, along Richmond streets. Of the remaining 16 runs, 14 of them occurred inside homes that were rental properties.

“That nearly 90 percent basically of all those overdoses we mentioned," said Benedict. "That jumps off the paper and smacks you right in the face.”

Of the 19 cases, two of them ended in fatalities.

Police said the numbers are comparable to city data from 2004 through the end of 2006, where 88 percent of calls related to drugs were also made to rental properties.

The city addressed the problem back then with an ordinance but now that the problem is back, the city is relying on a state law regarding nuisances that police officials said will allow them to evict tenants caught with drugs.

Benedict said, “If [police] come across the actual drugs or if there is an overdose - there doesn’t even have to be an arrest made - if they come across it and the evidence is collected, that information is forward to Capt. Bill Shake, who initiated this program, he will then make a determination with the city administration to either send a warning letter to the landlord. Letting them know this has taken place on their property and they need to take action, or they will actually start the eviction process.”

The state's growing drug problem has been a target for many police agencies in Indiana, along with several state agencies. Each organization has come up with a different way of hoping to address the problem. Police in Richmond aren't sure what will happen if drug addicts are kicked out of their homes, but they're determined to clean up city neighborhoods and encourage people to get help.

“It’s a non-traditional way of doing things," Benedict said.

Police have already met with a couple dozen landlords, many of whom were on board with the plan.

“It might be easier on every landlord here to get rid of this problem," said Danny Cooper, who manages approximately 20 properties and added he has evicted people in the past after finding drugs in his homes.

Benedict said the city is willing to cover eviction costs so property owners will be more on board.

“It makes the police department, the government and managers and owners of these rental properties co-producers in eliminating crime,” said Benedict.