Neighborhoods, businesses see improvement after nuisance shut-down

9:53 PM, Oct 25, 2012   |    comments
KPD has partnered with the Knox County DA's Office to close the doors on more than 30 locations in Knoxville.
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Officials are getting better results than expected from an initiative that identifies and shuts down locations within the community that are a source for continuous criminal activity.

Using the public nuisance law, the Knoxville Police Department has partnered with the Knox County District Attorney's Office to close the doors on more than 30 locations in Knoxville.

"We have a lot of cooperation from the community," said KPD Lieutenant Gene Sasscer, who leads the department's Repeat Offender Squad. "The business or house will turn over and they start to see people show back up and they will call us, and we'll also do a spot check on businesses."

According to KPD data through 2011, the nuisance locations recorded an 81 percent decrease in police calls for service and a 90 percent decrease in reported crime after officials shut them down.

KPD Chief David Rausch says the initiative not only keeps neighborhoods safer, it reduces the time and money spent by the department on a reoccurring problem.

"When we're able to make those kinds of significant reductions it tells you that something is going right. So, the nuisance injunctions have been one of the biggest and greatest tools that we have added and so we're really pleased with that," Chief Rausch said.

Roderick Woodfin has witnessed the positive impact an injunction can have on a neighborhood. Across the street from his East Knoxville home, authorities closed a house on Witt Place earlier this year. Woodfin says drug dealers occupied the property and customers would frequently stop by.

"Lot of heavy traffic, of drugs. We didn't know exactly what kind of drugs at first but it was getting on my nerves, and we would hear all kinds of door slapping all through the night and it was disturbing the neighborhood," Woodfin said.

He and other neighbors often complained to police, and were pleased when the house was finally boarded up.

"People can sleep now we don't have to worry about suspicious cars coming by or even people breaking into our house, he said." "Now we're back, comfortable again. We can sleep with our windows cracked and stuff. We're more at home now."

The Knox County District Attorney's office works closely with the police department's investigation of each nuisance location. Assistant DA Sean McDermott explains, it is important to build an airtight case.

"The most recent case was resolved in about a week," McDermott said. "We have been very successful. No one has contested the petitions thus far."

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