City of Martinsburg approves tougher drug-house penalties

West Virginia

Martinsburg City Council voted 5-1 Thursday.

BERKELEY COUNTY, W.Va. (WDVM) — Martinsburg City Council on Thursday approved tougher drug-house penalties for repeat offenders of the city’s drug house ordinance.

The proposal would mean violators, including houses of prostitution and other disorderly homes, would be fined $250 for the first offense if convicted, $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense. The Martinsburg Drug House Ordinance was issued in April 2016 as one of the tools in fighting the war on drugs in the city.

According to MPD Chief Maury Richards, the Drug House Ordinance has had an unprecedented impact on several other issues, including reducing crime, disorder, and overdoses in Martinsburg.

In a vote of 5-1 Thursday evening, Councilmember Jason Baker voted against the civil ordinance.

“I believe without a doubt in my mind that this ordinance violates due process of the tenant,” said Baker.

Chief Richards says while landlords have been stepping up, he hopes these tougher penalities will catch the attention of repeat offenders.

“If we don’t have to keep going back to a problem over and over again, there’s time and resources to tackle the next problem,” he said.

In addition, an amendment added to Thursday’s proposal would give trouble landlords a second chance, from an advanced fine if they have not had a second violation within 12 months of the first one.

According to the police department’s three-year report, there has been a crackdown on 59 drug houses.

Here is the latest report and assessment of the Martinsburg Drug House Ordinance, provided by Chief Richards:

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