Many Jamestown residents will think it’s time the city did more to deal with nuisance properties.

Crystal Surdyk, the city’s director of development, said the city is working on a nuisance ordinance that will detail what constitutes nuisance property. The aim is to help police, fire and development services deal with harmful properties.

It’s a good idea. However, as the ordinance is developed, city officials should keep in mind the experiences of other regions with nuisance property laws. Targeting landlords and tenants of properties where police officers spend most of their time makes sense, but can have unintended consequences if the order is worded incorrectly.

Some cities and towns have passed nuisance property ordinances that result in fines against property owners if police respond too often to a property. These systems have been found to prevent tenants from calling the police for serious issues, such as domestic violence, because they fear being evicted if they call the police too often. And excluding domestic violence from harmful property orders can be difficult because the types of charges that result from some domestic violence calls are not classified as domestic violence in police databases. There is no mention of domestic violence when someone is accused of something like harassment, disorderly conduct, or criminal mischief, but all are common charges in domestic incidents.

Jamestown should do more about harmful properties. People who are proud of their home and their neighborhood get discouraged by these types of properties. At the same time, many situations require police intervention – and a poorly crafted harmful property ordinance has been shown time and time again to deter people from calling the police.

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