COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — To say Club LaRue on Karl Road in Columbus was a nuisance is an understatement. Police were called there 45 times in less than three months in 2014 for shootings – including one homicide, fights and sexual assaults.
But it wasn’t until after undercover officers had evidence of the sale of alcohol to a minor that the city was able to board up the place as a nuisance under state law.
Some state lawmakers want to change that.
Under the current law, judges can consider evidence of illegal drugs, alcohol and prostitution when making a determination of nuisance.
Rep. David Leland, a Columbus Democrat, is one of the sponsors of a bill that would add the words “violent acts” to the state’s nuisance law.
“I mean, we’re talking about a pattern of violence,” Leland said. “We’re not talking about an incident here or an incident there. We’re talking about a place where this stuff happens a lot.”
Columbus police officer Scott Clinger says having to gather evidence of illegal drugs, alcohol or prostitution can slow down the process.
“Even undercover guys can’t always get inside certain places when they’re invitation only and you have to know the guy and that type of thing. It makes it tough.”
Kenneth Gilbert, president of the Forest Park Civic Association, says his neighborhood was impacted by the long process needed to shut down northside motels that were havens for drugs and prostitution.
“They were able to close those down but it took years to do this,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert says the process has taken its toll.
“We lost, for example, the Quarter Horse Congress and a number of other places won’t send people to hotels in the area because they simply were not safe,” Gilbert said. “People were having their cars broken into. We were losing a lot of business in our area.”
Lawmakers have two versions of the bill to consider – HB 126 in the House and SB 201 in the Senate. Both have bipartisan support.