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City closes down apartment building

The city's Nuisance Abatement Board has closed a 10-unit apartment complex off Fifth Avenue N near downtown after residents and police said the complex attracted constant criminal activity.

Prostitutes and crack cocaine dealers operate from the complex at 506 Grove St. N, police say.

Abatement Board officials heard the case against the complex and its owners on Tuesday and decided after a four-hour hearing that the property would not change unless it closed. The closure will last from Aug. 1 through July 1994.

The apartment complex's closing is the third time this year the board has moved to shut down apartments. It closed a nine-unit apartment complex April 15 at 453 Fifth Ave. N, just a few blocks from Grove Street. One apartment was closed at 655 Seventh Ave. N.

In the first 5{ months of this year, police say they were called to the Grove Street address 131 times.

"Street people know that this is the place to get drugs," police Detective Gary Stempinski said.

Trouble not only came from some of the residents, but also people hanging around the complex _ either in the yard or in an alley out back, Stempinski said.

A white stucco building with five apartments on the north side and five on the south side, the complex is sandwiched between several homes and rooming houses. Several residents said they did not want to talk about having to move.

Round Lake residents say they met with the owners and tried to get them to clean up the apartment complex back in February. They lost contact with the owners after that meeting.

"We told them they had a very serious problem," said Nancy Labencki, crime watch coordinator for the Uptown Neighborhood Association. "I even offered to screen their tenants for them. They said no."

Stempinski said too much went on late at night at the apartment complex. Police all too often were called in the middle of the night because of screeching car tires and loud noises.

"Sometimes the traffic on Grove Street is like downtown Manhattan," Labencki said.

The building is owned by Debbie Locke and Joseph Kablinger of Residential Property Management Inc.

On Wednesday, Locke said, "I talked to my lawyer and right now, I'm prepared to say there were problems and we've gone in there to fix them. The whole area is a problem. We are planning on appealing it."

Locke refused to comment further.

Abatement Board members heard from the owners on Tuesday, but decided to close the complex under city ordinances that allow shuttering a home if it has been the location for the sale of narcotics on more than four occasions.

In fact, undercover police officers have been to two apartments to buy drugs, Stempinski said. During the past four years, police have logged in 42 narcotics-related incidents, 17 burglaries and eight arrests on different warrants, he said.

Stempinski said police have been tracking problems at the complex for nine months. About six months ago, both owners came into Stempinski's office for a consultation. "I gave them a plan to attempt to stay away from nuisance abatement."

An officer who patrols the community offered such advice as putting up a fence and lightning, cleaning up the property and making sure abandoned vehicles weren't left in the complex's yard, Stempinski said.

"They didn't do anything," he said.

The Abatement Board's efforts are part of the city's efforts in the neighborhood and others to close up homes where drugs are sold. This year, the Abatement Board is meeting once a month, as opposed to last year when it met every other month.

In addition to the three times the board has shut down apartments, four other locations are on probation. In those instances, board members decide to spare either an individual apartment or a whole building while an owner cleans it up and solves the crime problem.

One violation of the law at an address on probation can result in the home being closed, Stempinski said.