Trumann Police talk cleanup initiative

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Trumann's Assistant Police Chief Jon Redman recently met with several Trumann landlords to roll out the Trumann Cleanup Initiative. The initiative is a collaboration between the police, the probation and parole office, the Housing Authority, HUD, the mayor, the Street Department, and other departments to create a safe and secure environment in the city. Redman said the goal of the initiative is to ensure that Trumann is not a safe place to deal and use drugs and that those who do are brought to justice in a swift manner.

"I've talked with the chief and the mayor, and I understand we can't arrest our way out of this drug problem," Redman said. Redman spoke to Trumann landlords during the meeting to talk about things they can do to help get drug dealers out of town and to hear their concerns.

Redman spoke about the duties of the Civil Enforcement Division, which investigates properties to determine if they are a common nuisance. They advise the owner of the nuisance and encourage them to clean up or--in extreme cases--to self abate. Self-abatement, Redman explained, is done through the court. "We'll put a sign out at the residence that says if you are a felon, you cannot be on the property," Redman said. "If you are on the property, you will be subject to search." Redman said self-abatment is good for some situations but not all, and pointed to examples in other communities where the practice had driven out drug dealers and brought in better tenants.

In addition to submitting investigations to the city attorney for filing injunctions of abatement, the Civil Enforcement Division also works to come up with viable solutions to shut down properties that breed crimes and drugs. One example Redman gave of this was a house that had been the subject of several police calls and arrests over the last five years. The owner didn't want the property and deeded it to the city so it could be torn down. Redman said many property owners may not realize how many arrests take place at their properties and offered tips for staying in touch with tenants and making sure properties are cleaned up. Redman spoke about developing comprehensive leases, doing proper background checks on tenants, and about warning signs of drug activity on the property such as excessive traffic, law enforcement presence, illegal tenants residing on the property, and changes in the tenant's behavior.

"One of the main parts of this is that we're trying to clean up Trumann, to beautify it," Redman said. "We want to make sure number one: they're not doing drugs in the house, and number two: the house is not trashed up."

"We want to work together with you as landlords," Redman said. "Cleaning up Trumann is going to be a 25-30 year process, but if we get one, two, or three each year, if we get places cleaned up and can get good tenants in, that's what we're looking for. We want to help you with that and make sure your tenants are good, wholesome people."

Redman said the key to the initiative's success was communication, collaboration, and cooperation. "We want your help, and we want an open line of communication," Redman said. "We are going to break our backs to get drugs out of this town."

Police Chief Chad Henson, who owns rental property himself, also encouraged landlords to keep an inventory and do inspections every 30 days with prior notification to tenants to make sure illegal activity is not taking place. He said they could inventory items at reportit.leadsonline.com, and if a tenant should steal property, one could then use the website to immediately notify police and pawn shops. He especially encouraged the site's use because one can log serial numbers there. Anyone can use the site to inventory their property.

Mayor Barbara Lewallen said the drug problem is everywhere, not just Trumann, and that the initiative was the result of discussing the problem with police, parole officers, the city attorney, and other departments. "People know Trumann is a good place to be," Lewallen said. "What we're trying to do is make it a better place to live."

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