Operation Crackdown


"Working to make our neighborhoods a better place to live..."

* What is Operation Crackdown?
* How does Operation Crackdown work?
* Role of the Young Lawyers Section
* Become an Operation Crackdown volunteer
* Is there a problem property in your neighborhood?
* Operation Crackdown Bulletin Board
* Contact Operation Crackdown

What is Operation Crackdown?

Crack houses, open air drug markets, and other neighborhood "drug hubs" pose some of the most serious threats to our District neighborhoods, largely because they often lead to "spillover" crimes -- robberies, gang violence, homicides, and other problems that go hand-in-hand with drug addiction. They make it hard to live and grow up in our neighborhoods and they drive down property values.

Operation Crackdown provides community groups (such as neighborhood civic organizations and tenants' rights groups) with free legal representation to combat these problems. Operation Crackdown attorneys use the civil courts and city agencies to force the owners of problem properties to stop illegal drug use, drug sales and drug manufacturing on those properties. Operation Crackdown attorneys can help community groups obtain court orders that require a property owner to:

    * evict problem tenants;
    * install outdoor lighting in dark alleys and vacant lots to discourage criminal activity;
    * hire security to patrol the property; or
    * take other steps to eliminate the use, sale or manufacture of illegal drugs.

At restaurants, bars, lounges, and liquor stores where drugs are being sold, Operation Crackdown lawyers can petition the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to review and revoke the establishment's license to operate.

How does Operation Crackdown Work?

Operation Crackdown maintains a group of specially trained lawyers in Washington, D.C., who are willing to devote a portion of their time, free of charge, to help bring the menace of neighborhood drug trafficking to an end.

We begin by evaluating each problem property referred to us to determined whether we can help. We typically require that the problem be drug-related and that there be an existing community group willing to act as a contact for the matter. Once we accept a referral, we pair the referring community group with one of our volunteer attorneys.

The attorney begins by talking with residents of the neighborhood to get a sense of the extent of the problem, the evidence available, and the neighborhood's level of comfort with proceeding under the law to stop the drug activity.

What happens next depends on the nature of the drug activity, the type of property involved, and the community's desires. Initial steps range from simply monitoring the property, to sending the owner of the problem property a written warning demanding that he or she take steps to eliminate the problem. In many cases, this written warning alone is enough to cause the owner to eliminate the problem.

If it is not enough, the lawyer will help ready the neighbors for, and then guide them through, litigation or an Alcoholic Beverage Control Board proceeding. Typically, this involves:

    * helping the neighborhood residents keep logs of observed activities at the problem property;
    * coordinating with and gathering evidence from police and other sources;
    * preparing and filing the necessary court or agency papers; and
    * handling any hearings or trial.

Role of the Young Lawyers Section

Operation Crackdown is a community service project of the Young Lawyers Section of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia. The Section has approximately 2,000 members who have been admitted to practice five years or less, or who are under 37 years of age. Lawyers participating in Operation Crackdown, however, may be of any age or experience.

Operation Crackdown is led by a Steering Committee consisting of approximately ten experienced volunteer attorneys.  The Committee is assisted by the Bar Association staff.

For more information, please contact the Operation Crackdown Hotline at (202) 293-1348, or e-mail Operation Crackdown at

Become an Operation Crackdown Volunteer

Many District lawyers and non-lawyers, both new and experienced, contribute their valuable skills to Operation Crackdown. You can help too by becoming a volunteer. Volunteers are encouraged to attend Operation Crackdown's 2-hour training session, which is held approximately twice a year. Lawyers and non-lawyers are welcome to participate.  Lawyers admitted to the Virginia Bar are eligible for two hours of continuing education credit.

For information about when and where the next training session will be held, please contact the Operation Crackdown Hotline at (202) 293-1348, or e-mail Operation Crackdown at

What to do if there is a problem property in your neighborhood

If your neighborhood has a problem property, Operation Crackdown can evaluate it for you and tell you whether we can help. Just fill out the form below. All information submitted to Operation Crackdown is treated confidentially.

Your Name: __________________________
Address: __________________________
Phone: (H)_________(W)___________

Does your neighborhood have a community group?
____ Yes ____ No ____ Don't Know

If so:
Group Name: _________________________
Contact: _________________________
Phone: _________________________
Address of problem property: _________________________
Owner of problem property: _________________________

Please give a brief description of the nature of the problems at the property (e.g., the type of problem activity observed, times of day when these activities occur, how long the problem has persisted, the nature of any police response, etc.):


Operation Crackdown Bulletin Board


In the News



A Significant New Tool for Community Groups Fighting the War Against Crack houses

In June, the District of Columbia Council passed the Drug-Related Nuisance Abatement Act of 1998 on an emergency basis. Originally drafted by Operation Crackdown*s founder, William Lawler, and Steering Committee Member, Craig Margolis, the legislation was sponsored by Councilmembers Jack Evans and Sharon Ambrose.

The Drug-Related Nuisance Abatement Act is an invaluable new tool in the war against crack houses that will be especially useful to Operation Crackdown volunteers and our clients. The Drug-Related Nuisance Abatement Act eliminates many of the current obstacles that hinder private citizens* ability to close down crack houses that are wreaking havoc in their neighborhoods. The Drug-Related Nuisance Abatement Act's strengths include:

Defining a drug-related nuisance by the effects of the crack house on a neighborhood, including diminished property value, increased fear of residents, increased ambulance or police calls to the property, solicitations to purchase drugs around the property, and other common complaints voiced by neighborhood residents;

Lawsuits can be brought by the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Corporation Counsel, or a community-based organization. Communities, rather than individuals, are authorized to sue to provide "safety in numbers" and safeguard the identity of individuals who could be subject to harassment by crack dealers. Enabling community groups to sue also fosters community cooperation and helps screen out frivolous actions;

Witnesses are protected by allowing the Court to put pleadings and supporting affidavits under seal;

Fair notice is given to property owners of problems on the property, but plaintiffs are not required to prove the owner's actual knowledge of the drug-related nuisance. As a result, absentee landlords and property owners cannot avoid closing down a crack house by taking an ostrich-like "head in the sand" approach;

Summary process is provided so that a community organization can obtain relief from a court as early as ten days after filing a complaint; and

Most importantly, judges are given wide discretion to order appropriate, and flexible, relief to meet the circumstances of a particular case. Judges have several options to respond to the situation, including ordering repairs on the property, paying rent into escrow to be used to abate the nuisance, and, if necessary, ordering the property to be closed, sealed, or even demolished.

Before the Drug-Related Nuisance Abatement Act, Operation Crackdown volunteers were forced to rely on an analogy between crack houses and more traditional *nuisances* recognized under the common law; or to invoke a seldom-used statute from the turn of the century known as the *Bawdy House Law,* originally designed to combat houses of prostitution, and recently amended to apply to crack houses, which gives courts the authority to seal problem properties and evict any occupants for one year.

The Drug-Related Nuisance Abatement Act simplifies and expedites the legal process of getting a crack house shut down by clarifying the status of crack houses as nuisances, permitting courts to adopt flexible remedies, and giving these kind of cases priority over ordinary civil actions filed in D.C. Superior Court by guaranteeing community groups a hearing within 10 days after a complaint has been filed. In addition, the new law helps to protect the identities of individual community groups members, because many fear retaliation from those engaged in drug trafficking activity.

In addition, as part of our efforts on the Drug-Related Nuisance Abatement Act, Operation Crackdown also prompted an amendment to the drug-related eviction statute currently on the books, which is another useful tool for our volunteers and clients. The drug-related eviction statute permits community groups to sue to evict problem tenants within the geographic area served by the community group if the tenants have been maintaining a *drug-haven* within the meaning of the statute. 45-2551 et. seq. As originally drafted, the eviction statute applied only to opiates; as a result of the amendment, the statute now applies to virtually all types of illegal drugs.

Operation Crackdown expects that these recent legislative developments will make our program even more effective in assisting community groups that tackle the crack house problem in their neighborhoods. At least one complaint relying upon the Drug-Related Nuisance Abatement Act has already been filed. By speaking to community groups all over the city, we are educating community residents about their new rights under the law.

Operation Crackdown continues to grow and always needs new volunteers. We currently have over seventy cases involving properties all over the city. If you are interested in becoming an Operation Crackdown volunteer, please call 828-3643.


Young Lawyer at Reed, Smith Takes On Owner of Drug Property

by Patti Hurst

Andrew Hurst of Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay (no relation to the author) is one of those lawyers who goes the extra mile to serve his clients. Hurst, under the direction of Reed, Smith partner Helen Kirsh, and with the help of summer associate Karin Larson, spent the summer working with the East Central Civic Association to return a two-story brick row house in the Shaw neighborhood to lawful uses. Hurst's work for the Association is as much a personal battle against crime in D.C. as it is his responsibility as a lawyer.

"The house is occupied by a large cast of characters who receive visitors from all over the metropolitan area at any hour of the day or night," Hurst says. Neighbors report that residents of the house do drug deals in the front yard. Needles and other drug paraphernalia litter the yard and the adjoining sidewalk. Neighbors have often complained to police about loud fighting and gunshots emanating from the property. Although the police raid the house regularly, the drug activity continues. Members of the East Central Civil Association contacted Operation Crackdown for help after a resident of the house was shot and killed 100 yards from home.

Hurst began by visiting the property and meeting with the East Central Civic Association to discuss its concerns and possible strategies for solving the problem. The group decided that it would send a letter to the owner of the property demanding that he abate the nuisance created by the drug activity at the house in 60 days. "The purpose of the letter is to prove that the owner knows about the nuisance, which is an element of proof in any civil nuisance action," Hurst says. The letter also notifies the owner of the Civic Association's intention to file a civil nuisance action if the problem persists.

One initial hurdle Hurst overcame was locating the owner of the property and serving him with the group's demand letter. "We had reports that the owner was in North Carolina, but one day an Association member saw him walking down the street in Shaw. We sent the letter by certified mail to him at his Shaw address and he claimed the letter."

Hurst is now working with the Association to gather the evidence he will need to bring a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court. Some Association members are keeping logs of drug activity they notice at the property. Others have taken photographs of the dilapidated condition of the house and trash accumulated on the property. Members are also working to identify visitors to the house. Hurst is working with the police, who have given him records of their searches of the property and information about residents who have been arrested there in the past. Hurst plans to use an officer's testimony at trial to establish the existence of a nuisance.

"We sent our letter to the owner on August 1st and have received no response so far. We are ready to file the complaint and proceed to trial so that this problem will end as soon as possible. Shaw's residents simply are not willing to tolerate this problem property in their midst any longer."


Lawyers at Shaw, Pittman Adopt Trinidad Neighborhood in D.C., Target Crack Houses With Nuisance Suits

by Patti Hurst

A group of young lawyers at the D.C. firm Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge has "adopted" a District of Columbia neighborhood and plans to target the area's drug problem with nuisance suits against the owners of several area crack houses.

Over the past two months, lawyers Seth Waxman, Matthew Anzaldi, Darryl McCallum, Rett Snotherly and Susan Borschel have worked to incorporate residents of the Trinidad neighborhood into Trinidad Concerned Citizens for Reform, Inc. The group was formed for the express purpose of taking legal action against owners of crack houses. The Trinidad neighborhood is bounded by West Virginia Avenue, Mt. Olivett Road and Trinidad Avenue in the Northeast sector of D.C. Some have said the Trinidad area is plagued with the City's second-worst drug market.

Lawyer Seth Waxman, who is a volunteer with the Operation Crackdown program of the Young Lawyers Section, said that his firm initially agreed to represent the Trinidad residents in an action against one problem property. However, when Waxman's friends at the firm expressed interest in the case, the firm agreed to tackle several properties in the Trinidad community.

"Shaw, Pittman's commitment of substantial resources to the Operation Crackdown program offers a rare opportunity to address drug problems on a community-wide basis," said Operation Crackdown Coordinator Jennifer Quinn of Steptoe & Johnson. "Too often, drug dealers simply move down the block when Operation Crackdown focuses on cleaning up a particular property. Shaw Pittman's approach makes that much more difficult," Quinn said.

Shaw Pittman is working with local police and Kathleen O'Connor, who is an assistant U.S. Attorney working as a Community Prosecutor in the 5th District. O'Connor and the police helped lawyers for Shaw Pittman identify problem properties, and provided vital evidence of illegal activities on those properties, information about search warrants issued for those properties and the evidence found by the police during those searches. The firm is also working with community members to gather additional evidence needed to establish the existence of a nuisance on the properties, such as license plate numbers of vehicles entering the neighborhood to purchase drugs.

Lawyers are now prepared to send "demand letters" to the owners of the problem properties, which put the owners on notice of the unlawful activities at the property, the existence of a nuisance, and their obligation to end that nuisance. Most of the properties are owner-occupied, but some have problem tenants. "We will give the property owners a reasonable amount of time to address the nuisance. If the owners do not respond, we will file actions for public and private nuisance in the civil courts of the District of Columbia," Waxman said.

The firm is also considering other legal options, including suits under the Residential Drug-Related Eviction Act, D.C. Code 45-2501 et seq., which gives civic groups standing to bring eviction actions to clean up drug havens. Other options include suits under the civil provisions of RICO, where treble damages and attorneys fees are available, and the recently amended "Bawdy House" statute, D.C. Code 22-2717, 2722 et seq., which was enacted in 1914 to address houses of prostitution but now also applies to crack houses.

Although Shaw Pittman's commitment of resources to Operation Crackdown is significant, its lawyers acknowledge that there are many benefits from participation. Waxman noted that "the firm liked the idea of being able to address the drug problems of an entire neighborhood. Participation also gives junior litigators at Shaw Pittman an opportunity to manage their own cases and to try cases at an early stage in their careers."

The junior lawyers at Shaw Pittman are supervised by Thomas Hill, who heads the firm's pro bono program. Hill is formerly of the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Recent Legal Developments

D.C. Court Uses Nuisance Statute to Rid Capitol Hill Neighborhood of Crack house

by Patti Hurst

A local court invoked a rarely used nuisance statute late last month to close a Capitol Hill roughhouse after residents pled guilty to the criminal offenses of using and selling crack cocaine in and near the house. The "order of abatement" issued by U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth sets new precedent which volunteer attorneys for Operation Crackdown plan to use in their own civil nuisance actions against crack house owners.

The U.S. Attorney's office sought the order of abatement under a rarely used law enacted in 1914 to address brothels and gambling houses that were prevalent in the city at the time. The government used the law last month to close a house on the 600 block of G Street, S.E., after two of its occupants, Eugene and his brother Charles Wade, pled guilty to keeping a disorderly house, aiding and abetting and two other drug crimes. Under the nuisance law, D.C. Code 22-2717, the court may order all residents of the house to vacate for one year.

Prosecutors alleged that for more than three years, the Wade house had been at the epicenter of rampant open-market drug dealing. The two-story brick house sits across from Christ Church, the oldest Episcopal parish in the city and a few blocks from four elementary and junior high schools. Since at least 1994, neighbors have complained that members of the Wade family sold drugs at the house. Undercover police repeatedly bought crack at the house and police later seized unregistered ammunition found there. Buyers would stop their cars in front on the house and honk their horns at all hours of the day and night until someone came out to make a sale.

Based on the admissions of guilt obtained from the Wade brothers under the plea-bargain, the government asked the court to declare the house a nuisance and to evict the Wade family from the house for one year. The court granted that request without issuing an opinion.

The abatement order is a victory for prosecutors and a useful tool for residents of D.C. neighborhoods with crack houses in their midst. Prosecutors are planning to invoke the law more frequently to shut down crack houses by showing that they are "disorderly" or "public nuisances" under the law.

Until now, prosecutors used criminal forfeiture laws to take property from owners convicted of drug crimes. This process, however, can take a year or more. Moreover, it is often difficult to determine the lawful owner of a house when there are many family members and there is no clear succession of ownership. Prosecutors hope to use abatement orders to evict occupants of crack houses while lengthy criminal forfeiture proceedings are underway.

The court's order is important for D.C. citizens because it is the first judicial recognition that an owner or occupant who uses his or her District property for drug dealing creates a legal nuisance that is actionable under law. Lawyers for Operation Crackdown will be able to use the decision in their own civil nuisance actions by arguing that other crack houses in the District are public and private nuisances which, under common law, should be abated.

The Wade family and others have criticized Judge Lamberth's decision to order abatement under the 1914 law because they say it imposes unfair burdens on occupants of the house that were not involved with drug dealing. Although the only remedy available under the 1914 law invoked by the court is eviction for one year, Operation Crackdown attorneys seek a wider variety of injunctive relief under the common law. Plaintiffs in common law nuisance actions have sought to close crack houses permanently, to order drug-dealing tenants evicted from the property, to secure abandoned houses, to build tall fences around vacant lots, to install outdoor lighting in dark yards and alleys and to require property owners to hire security guards. The availability of additional forms of relief under common law allows the parties and the court to tailor effective relief that addresses the particular facts at issue.

Important Statutes and Decisions

The Drug Related Nuisance Abatement Act has been approved by Congress.  The text follows.

"Drug-Related Nuisance Abatement Act of 1998," D.C. CODE 1981 § 45-3301 et seq.:

§  45-3301  Definitions.

  For the purpose of this chapter, the term:

(1) "Adverse impact" means the presence of any one or more of the following conditions:

(A) Diminished real property value which is related to the use, sale, or manufacture of controlled substances or drug paraphernalia in and around the property;

(B) Increased fear of residents to walk through or in public areas, including sidewalks, streets, and parks, due to the use, sale, or manufacture of controlled substances or drug paraphernalia, or violence stemming therefrom;

(C) Increased volume of vehicular and pedestrian traffic to and from the

property which is related to the use, sale, or manufacture of controlled substances or drug paraphernalia in and around the property;

(D) An increase in the number of ambulance or police calls to the property which are related to the use, sale, or manufacture of controlled substances or drug paraphernalia, or to violence stemming therefrom;

(E) Bothersome solicitations or approaches by persons wishing to sell controlled substances or drug paraphernalia on or near the property;

(F) The display of dangerous weapons at or near the property;

(G) Investigative purchases of controlled substances or drug paraphernalia by undercover law enforcement officers at or near the property;

(H) Arrests of persons on or near the property for criminal conduct relating to the use, sale, or manufacture of controlled substances or drug paraphernalia;

(I) Search warrants served or executed at the property relating to the use, sale, or manufacture of controlled substances or drug paraphernalia;

(J) A substantial number of complaints made to law enforcement and other government officials about alleged illegal activity associated with the use, sale, or manufacture of controlled substances or drug paraphernalia in and around the property; or

(K) The discharge of a firearm at the property.

(2) "Community-based organization" means any group, whether unincorporated or incorporated, affiliated with or organized for the benefit of one or more communities or neighborhoods, of defined geographic boundaries, containing the drug related nuisance, or any group organized to benefit the quality of life in a residential area containing the alleged drug-related nuisance.

(3) "Controlled substance" means any of the controlled substances as defined in § 33-501(4).

(4) "Drug paraphernalia" means drug paraphernalia, as defined in § 33- 601(3).

(5) "Drug-related nuisance" means:

(A) Any real property, in whole or in part, used or intended to be used to facilitate any violation of Chapter 5 of Title 33; or

(B) Any real property, in whole or in part, used, or intended to be used, to facilitate the use, sale, distribution, possession, storage, transportation, or manufacture of any controlled substance or drug paraphernalia which has an adverse impact on the community.

(6) "Manufacturing" means the production, preparation, propagation, compounding, conversion, or processing of a controlled substance, either directly or indirectly, by extraction from substances of natural origin or independent means of chemical synthesis, including the packaging or repackaging

of the drug or labeling or relabeling of its container.

(7) "Owner" means the individual, corporation, partnership, trust association, joint venture, or any other business entity, and the respective agents of such individuals or entities, in whom is vested all or any part of the title to the property alleged to be a drug-related nuisance.

(8) "Property" means tangible real property, or any interest in real property, including an interest in any leasehold, license or real estate, such as any house, apartment building, condominium, cooperative, office building, storage, restaurant, tavern, nightclub, warehouse, park, median, and the land extending to the boundaries of the lot upon which such structure is situated, and anything growing on, affixed to, or found on the land.

(9) "Tenant" means a person who resides in or occupies real property owned by another person pursuant to a lease agreement, whether written or oral, or pursuant to a tenancy at will or sufferance at common law.

§ 45-3302  Action to abate.

(a) Wherever there is reason to believe that a drug-related nuisance exists, the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, the Corporation Counsel for the District of Columbia, or any community-based organization may file an action in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to abate, enjoin, and prevent the drug-related nuisance.

(b) Such actions shall be commenced by the filing of a complaint in the Civil Branch of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia against any person alleging the facts constituting the drug-related nuisance.

(c) Such actions shall be in equity and shall be tried without a jury.

§  45-3303  Complaint.

(a) The complaint or an affidavit attached thereto shall describe the adverse impact of the drug-related nuisance upon the surrounding community.

(b) The complaint shall contain a description of attempts made by the plaintiff to notify the owner of the property on which the drug-related nuisance is situated about the drug-related nuisance and the resulting adverse impact. No complaint shall be filed unless a reasonable attempt at notice to the owner of the property on which the alleged drug-related nuisance is situated is made no later than 14 days prior to the filing of the complaint. This notice requirement may be satisfied either by a mailing to the last known mailing address of the owner or by posting a conspicuous notice at the property stating the general nature of the drug-related nuisance.

(c) When an action is brought pursuant to this act by a community-based organization, the complaint shall be supported by at least 1 person residing, either as a tenant or otherwise, or owning real property within 3000 feet of the property alleged to be a drug-related nuisance. Said support shall be in the form of an affidavit testifying to the fact that the affiant's residence is within 3000 feet of the alleged drug-related nuisance, that the affiant has witnessed the activities alleged to constitute a drug-related nuisance, and that the affiant is aware of an adverse impact on the community stemming from the alleged drug-related nuisance.

(d) A copy of the summons and complaint shall be served upon the defendant at least 5 business days prior to the first hearing on the action. Service shall be made in accordance with the Rules of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia or by posting a conspicuous notice at the property indicating the nature of the proceedings, a copy of the summons, and the time and place of the hearing. If service is made by posting at the property, a copy of the summons and complaint shall be sent, by first class mail, postage prepaid, to the last known mailing address, if any, of the defendant. If the defendant is not the owner of the property, a copy of the summons and complaint shall be mailed to the last known mailing address of the owner.

§  45-3304  Preliminary injunction.

(a) Upon the filing of a complaint to abate the drug-related nuisance, the court shall hold a hearing on the motion for a preliminary injunction, within 10 business days of the filing of such action. If it appears, by affidavit or otherwise, that there is a substantial likelihood that the plaintiff will be able to prove at trial that a drug-related nuisance exists, the court may enter an order preliminarily enjoining the drug-related nuisance and granting such other relief as the court may deem appropriate, including those remedies provided in § 45-3310. A plaintiff need not prove irreparable harm to obtain a preliminary injunction. Where appropriate, the court may order a trial of the action on the merits to be advanced and consolidated with the hearing on the motion for preliminary injunction.

(b) This section shall not be construed to prohibit the application for or the granting of a temporary restraining order, or other equitable relief otherwise provided by law.

§  45-3305  Protection of witnesses.

If proof of the existence of the drug-related nuisance depends, in whole or in part, upon affidavits of witnesses who are not law enforcement officers, the court in its discretion may issue orders to protect those witnesses, including, but not limited to, placing the complaint and supporting affidavits under seal.

§ 45-3306  Conviction not required.

A previous conviction of the defendant, or any tenant or owner of the property, shall not be required to demonstrate a drug-related nuisance.

§  45-3307  Security.

No security bond shall be required to issue a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order sought by the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia or by the Corporation Counsel. Otherwise, the court may require a security bond to issue a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order.

§ 45-3308  Burden of proof.

The plaintiff must establish that a drug-related nuisance exists by a preponderance of the evidence. Once a reasonable attempt at notice is made pursuant to § 45-3303, the owner of the property shall be presumed to have knowledge of the drug-related nuisance. A plaintiff is not required to make any further showing that the owner knew, or should have known, of the drug-related nuisance to obtain relief under §§ 45-3310 or 45-3311.

§  45-3309  Evidence of reputation.

In an action brought under this chapter, evidence of general reputation of the property or tenants is admissible for the purpose of proving a drug-related nuisance, and for the purpose of proving the knowledge of the defendant of the nuisance.

§  45-3310  Relief.

(a) If the existence of a drug-related nuisance is found, the court shall enter an order permanently enjoining, abating, and preventing the continuance or recurrence of the nuisance. In order to effectuate fully the equitable remedy of abatement, such order may include damages as provided in S>  45- 3311. The court may grant declaratory relief or any other relief deemed necessary to accomplish the purposes of the judgment. The court may retain jurisdiction of the case for the purpose of enforcing its orders. A drug- related nuisance is a nuisance per se requiring abatement as provided under subsection (b) of this section.

(b) Any order issued under this section may include the following relief:

(1) Assessment of reasonable attorney fees and costs to the prevailing party;

(2) Ordering the owner to make repairs upon the property;

(3) Ordering the owner to make reasonable expenditures upon the property, including the installation of secure locks, hiring private security personnel, increasing lighting in common areas, and using videotaped surveillance of the property and adjacent alleys, sidewalks, or parking lots;

(4) Ordering all rental income from the property to be placed in an escrow account with the court for up to 90 days or until the drug-related nuisance is abated;

(5) Ordering all rental income for the property transferred to a trustee, to be appointed by the court, who shall be empowered to use the rental income to make reasonable expenditures related to the property in order to abate the drug-related nuisance;

(6) Ordering the property vacated, sealed, or demolished; or

(7) Any other remedy which the court, in its discretion, deems appropriate.

(c) In fashioning an order under this section, the court shall consider, without limitation, the following factors:

            (1) The extent and duration of the drug-related nuisance and the severity of the adverse impact on the community;

(2) The number of people residing at the property;

(3) The proximity of the property to other residential structures;

(4) The number of times the property has been cited for housing code or health code violations;

(5) The number of times the owner or tenant has been notified of drug- related problems at the property;

(6) Prior efforts or lack of efforts by the defendant to abate the drug- related nuisance;

            (7) The involvement of the owner or tenant in the drug-related nuisance;

(8) The costs incurred by the jurisdiction or by the community-based organization in investigating, correcting, or attempting to correct the drug- related nuisance;

(9) Whether the drug-related nuisance was continuous or recurring;

(10) The economic or financial benefit accruing or likely to accrue to the defendant as a result of the conditions constituting the drug-related nuisance; or

(11) Any other factor the court deems relevant.

(d) In fashioning an order under this section, the court shall not consider the lack of action by other property owners, tenants, or third parties to abate the drug-related nuisance.

§  45-3311  Damages.

In addition to equitable relief granted under this act, the plaintiff may request, and the court in its discretion may order damages for each day the drug-related nuisance is unabated since the date the defendant first received notice of the drug-related nuisance as provided in § 45-3303, or knew or should have known of the existence of the drug-related nuisance, whichever is earlier. Such damages shall be payable to the plaintiff, or, in the case of an action by the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia or by the Corporation Counsel, to the General Fund of the District of Columbia. No other damages are recoverable under this chapter.

§  45-3312  Violation of injunction or abatement order.

(a) A violation of any court order issued under this chapter is punishable as a contempt of court.

(b) Upon finding that a defendant has willfully violated an order issued under this chapter, the court may issue any additional orders necessary to abate the drug-related nuisance.

(c) Upon motion, the court may vacate an order or judgment of abatement if the owner of the property satisfies the court that the drug-related nuisance has been abated for 90 days prior to the motion, corrects all housing code and health code violations on the property, and deposits a bond in an amount to be determined by the court, which shall be in an amount reasonably calculated to ensure continued abatement of the nuisance. Any bond posted under this subsection shall be forfeited immediately if the drug-related nuisance recurs during the 2-year period following the date on which an order under this section is entered. At the close of 2 years following the date on which an order under this section is entered, the bond shall be returned.

 §  45-3313  Interpretation.

This chapter shall be construed liberally in accordance with its remedial purposes. The definition of a drug-related nuisance shall not be subject to any restrictions or limitations upon public or private nuisance actions at common law. This action is civil in nature and none of its provisions should be interpreted as punishment.

 §  45-3314  Availability of other remedies.

           The provisions of this chapter shall not limit the availability of other remedies under the law or other equitable relief whether or not an adequate remedy exists at law.



Home | Back to Top