Southwest Court residents have asked Grove City officials for help in ridding their street of persistent drug activity.

"It's been hell for us," Owen Stotts said. "There are drug deals going on out in the street. When you see drug deals going down daily, they're beating us down."

Stotts and several other Southwest Court residents attended the Feb. 21 Grove City Council meeting to speak about a problem they said has been going on for years.

The drug activity centers around two houses on the street, resident David Myers said.

Those houses "we believe are infested with drugs," he said. "There are a number of police calls to these houses. (Earlier) this month I looked out my front window and saw six cruisers, a detective and a city truck parked out on the court."

Myers said he regularly observes what he believes are drug deals taking place at one of the houses.

"I see people walk up to a vehicle, stick their head in the car, then go into the house," he said. "They come back out and stick their head back in the car, then they are gone."

"They don't do anything until after midnight. They wait until after dark," Stotts said. "It's like a bunch of rats. They come out after dark."

Stotts said he and his wife chose to live in Grove City after leaving south Columbus, where the same kind of problems were occurring.

"We thought we'd be able to retire in Grove City and have a nice place," he said. "I didn't know I'd be living (near) two drug houses in Grove City."

Tonia Willey said she can't let her son go out to play without keeping an eye on him.

"I can't let him be a child," she said. "We call and call and call and nothing gets done. If Grove City police put up cameras or had a patrol out there, this (activity) would be cut down.

"We need answers. We need somebody to stand up to the plate and take control and give us answers."

Police Chief Jeff Pearson said officers were doing all they could.

"We're very familiar with the residence," Pearson said. "We do everything we can within the law to address the issues.

"The law-enforcement approach is a Band-Aid approach. We can enforce the law when we observe the law being broken."

The police division will work with the residents "to put together another problem-solving model to address the observable problems," he said.

City zoning director Mike Boso said his department was called in by the police on Feb. 10.

"They made access to the residence and found some items they thought could be an issue of safety violations," he said.

An inspection of the house revealed electrical and sanitation issues that posed safety hazards and the residents were told they needed to address those issues within 24 hours or they would have to leave the house, Boso said.

"We went back the next day and the major issues had been taken care of, so we allowed them to stay in the house," he said.

Another visit was made on Monday and the code-enforcement office is monitoring some minor issues that need to be resolved, Boso said.

"They are making progress," he said.

Myers said the increased attention has caused a temporary reduction in the activity on the court.

"They are backing off and laying low until the smoke blows over," he said. "And when the smoke blows over, they'll be right back at their game again."

Law director Stephen Smith said state law gives a city the ability to initiate action against a property where there have been repeated violations of the law.

"There are remedies under the law that you can pursue," he said. "I will tell you they are not quick. Unfortunately, it takes a while for them to work."

Smith said state law allows communities to declare properties as public nuisances and condemn them when the condition of the property is unlivable or if the property has been identified as "a hub of criminal activity."

"But these are civil actions, usually handled through environmental court, and it takes a while," he said. "Depending on whether the cases are contested, it can take a long time, and it should be that way if we're looking to remove people from their residences."

The process can take several months to resolve, Smith said.

City officials are leaving open the possibility of pursing a civil action to declare the two properties on Southwest Court as public nuisances, he said.

"We're gathering information from the various groups -- police, fire and code enforcement -- and from the residents," Smith said. "We'll see where that leads us."

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