Data News Staff Edited Report
Councilmember Helena Moreno presented a new proposed law that would give the City and Police Chief new authorities to address chronic nuisance businesses that harbor violent and serious crime. The proposal is patterned after a similar law in Baltimore and allows the City’s legal department, in concert with the Police Superintendent, to suspend operational licenses of chronic nuisance businesses for up to two years.
“I want to make sure we’re providing the city every tool available to address safety in our neighborhoods and across New Orleans. People are tired of chronic neighborhood public safety issues, and we need to be able to address these challenges head-on,” said Councilmember Moreno. “Importantly, we’ve carefully crafted this new law with protections in mind to ensure it is used objectively and contains clear notice and due process. Enforcement must come hand-in-hand with clear guardrails to maintain public integrity and secure the rights of all.
“This ordinance cuts out some of the red tape that allows us to get a handle on the situation, including talking with the business directly about remediation. If all else fails, we can shut the businesses down to help stop the crime in our city. This is going to be a great tool for NOPD,” said Interim Superintendent Michelle Woodfork.
The proposed law would allow the Police Superintendent to put commercial properties on notice and to work with them on tangible steps to address those issues. If the establishment fails to do so, or refuses, the City’s law department can begin an expedited court process to suspend that establishment’s license to do business for up to two years and set civil penalties.
A chronic nuisance would be defined as a business that fails to address three or more violent or serious crimes on their property within one year. Those crimes include:
1) distributing, storing, or manufacturing controlled substances,
2) storage or possession of stolen property or unregistered firearms,
3) the furtherance of a crime of violence as defined in La R.S. 14:2
Any business so accused would be given appropriate notice, an opportunity to provide a plan to remedy the issues, and, if unsuccessful, due process, including their day in court. However, if the business is declared a chronic nuisance, penalties can include suspension of licensing for up to two years and the assessment of the costs incurred by the City. Amendments will guarantee this law may not be used against residential properties, nor allow owners to simply sell the property to defeat the City’s attempts at enforcement.
The ordinance will now be heard at the full Council meeting on Thursday at Council.Nola.Gov/Live at 10 AM. Submit virtual public comment on Council.Nola.Gov or attend in person in City Council Chambers.