Rochester's effort to annoy crime

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

In 1985 Rochester enacted a law designed to help the city close illegal operations. The purpose was to allow the city to assign points for illegal activities and if a property obtained too many points then it could be closed and the tenants evicted. This ordinance sighted a need to stop illegal drug trade, prostitution , illicit gun sales, dog fighting and the like activities. If a place received 12 points in a 6 month period or 18 in a year then the city could close the property down and force it to become vacant. Well it is still on the books and the city has turned this system upon lawful landlords and businesses. Unfortunately the provisions of this law grant a great deal of leeway in determining if a property is responsible for criminal activity and what activities should get points. So while this statue was designed to give points to a business which was selling drugs now the business can get points if someone sells drugs outside the business even if the business is closed! It is often used against bars and restaurants to punish them for being robbed or having rowdy patrons who create trouble outside the establishment. It is also used against landlords who rent to drug dealers even if the landlord is cooperating with the police! The city uses this law to bully businesses when they have been a victim of a crime. This is most often used in response to new stories after a shooting or other problem. Then the city agrees not to close the business if they adopt additional precautions which usually cost the business money. The problem with this law is the effect it has upon businesses. In most cases a business is the best eyes on the street and is most concerned with preventing bad activities. Yet for many chronically troubled businesses like bars, corner stores, and restaurants this has the affect of discouraging them from calling the police. Further it makes it harder and more expensive for businesses to survive and discourages investment. Both of this help keep areas form becoming thriving business districts and have led to many commercial vacancies. So what is the solution to the initial problem as there are bad businesses. They tend to be disruptive to neighborhoods and hard to close. The problem is that this law does not stop criminals it only annoys them and forces them to move. While this might be good for a neighborhood on the short term it is not the solution. What we need to do is find ways to stop the criminal with effective police tactics aimed at businesses, and enforcement of measurable rules. This would close the bad business and leave the good ones to continue to operate in peace.


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