ST. PETERSBURG — Troubled by growing complaints surrounding a Midtown trouble spot, City Council member Karl Nurse is calling for an overhaul of the city's nuisance abatement process.
Nurse asked the City Council to broaden the definition of a nuisance property to include sites heavily frequented by police. The measure could make it easier for city officials to shut down criminal hot spots.
"We have properties in the city that generate hundreds of police calls per year," he wrote in his request to put the issue before the council. "However, if the crimes are public drinking, brawling, drug possession and similar crimes, they do not count as a nuisance under our nuisance abatement ordinance. Clearly, these properties are a nuisance."
The abatement board can declare a property a public nuisance if the city can prove it is the site of drug sales, prostitution, gang activity or stolen property dealing.
Nurse said the nuisance abatement board should also consider the frequency of crimes at a location.
Nurse said he was motivated by growing complaints regarding the TyRon Lewis Memorial Garden and That Dam New York Liquor Store, two adjoining properties along 16th Street S that have become a gathering place for drug dealers and drunks, according to area business owners and residents.
Police were called to the area 131 times last year, and 162 so far this year. At least 44 people were arrested near the garden for crimes such as public drinking and battery, including five cases of drug possession.
"It seems kind of 'Duh!' that if a property has 162 calls to the Police Department in 10 months it seems inherently a nuisance," Nurse said.
Catherine Weaver, president of the Sixteenth Street South Business Association, said she has been trying for years to get the city to shut down the liquor store.
"This is really hurting the businesses here. People don't want to come down here if they don't feel safe," she said. "I know (the council) can do something about it. It's just a matter of doing it."
Cristina Silva can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8846.